WESTFIELD, NJ – His Eminence Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey has created an awareness program about opioid abuse, and a corresponding video: Metropolis Opioid Response Effort (MORE), in conjunction with a committee his Metropolitan Council.
The committee is comprised of dedicated clergy and laity alike, chaired by Archon H. James Polos, a Councilmember and a parishioner at St. George in Piscataway, NJ.
Opioid abuse has affected the nation as a whole and the Greek-American community specifically, and the Council decided to address the critical issue.
Metropolitan Evangelos asked Archon Polos to chair the committee because he is a county elected official and a public safety director. Evangelos said “this issue must be brought into the light and our parishioners should not be afraid to talk about this disease or embarrassed to seek help from their parish or this metropolis. Our Church needs to do more to help those afflicted with this disease and we need to reach beyond the borders of our church to enlist help and support for our own who are affected and as our Orthodox faith teaches us, offer help and support for others in the communities where we live and worship.”
With that in mind, the committee looked beyond the creation of a standard written encyclical and instead focused on the creation of a video so that Evangelos could speak directly to the people about this very important yet very sensitive and personal issue. The video includes Evangelos’ message and life stories from Greek Orthodox Church members, and vital information about awareness and response from Dionysios Mihalopoulos, a Greek-born DEA Special Agent who provided the message in both English and Greek.
Tom and Chrystallo Trachy share the intimate details of their struggle with their young son, who ultimately lost his struggle with addiction. “If sharing and viewing this video can even help one family become more aware of this issue and be able to intervene with their child in time to save their life, it will be well worth the time and tears we have shed to be a part of this important program,” said Tom Trachy.“My wife and I applaud the metropolitan for taking a leadership role to bring opioid addiction in our community into the light because it is real and exists in every parish.”
Sts. Constantine and Helen (Annapolis, MD) Presiding Priest Fr. Kosmas Karavellas said “I have had to experience the loss of members of our parish to opioid abuse and have had to try and console and minister the loving surviving family members who have to look back each day and wonder if they could have done more. I don’t want anyone to have to live through that. The MORE program will go a long way to start the dialogue in our churches.”
Evangelos said “we must do all that we can to assist and guide the faithful have to deal with opioid abuse by their loved ones or friends. We must also provide information and access to resources to assist families with identification of abuse and intervention methods. MORE has begun the dialogue but now it will be up to each parish to continue the discussion, challenge the status quo and insure that local experts are brought in to drill down further on the important elements of abuse. The MORE program will better inform and prepare parents and families and most importantly send a strong message to our youngsters about the dangers of addiction to hopefully keep them on the right track before they become addicted. We can and we should all do more.”
Mihalopoulos said “this video is one of the most compelling and important works I have seen developed to address opioid abuse in our Greek Orthodox parishes, because it encourages people to openly discuss the issue and seek help when necessary from the Church and the other expert resources provided.”
The video is available on the Metropolis’ website nj.goarch.org. Parishes throughout the Archdiocese are encouraged to show it at various meetings, such as GOYA, Philoptochos, and PTO.