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Federal prosecutor urging local clergy to speak out against opioids

FARGO--Groups working in the Fargo-Moorhead area to address an opioid and heroin epidemic taking a growing number of lives here and elsewhere around the country are inviting local clergy to join in the fray.

People listen to speakers during the Eyes Wide Open forum on the growing opiate abuse crisis on Thursday, May 5, 2016, at West Fargo High School. Rick Abbott / The Forum
U.S. Attorney Chris Myers speaks during the Eyes Wide Open forum on the growing opiate abuse crisis on Thursday, May 5, 2016, at West Fargo High School. Rick Abbott / Forum News Service

FARGO-Groups working in the Fargo-Moorhead area to address an opioid and heroin epidemic taking a growing number of lives here and elsewhere around the country are inviting local clergy to join in the fray.

"It's a whole team effort," said U.S. Attorney Chris Myers, who describes himself as one of many who are organizing campaigns across the region in response to the growing problem of opioid addiction.

Myers said communities of faith are uniquely qualified to assist in the battle because for some people fighting addiction affiliation with a congregation may be the only family or support structure in their lives.

"Which is critical to success and recovery," Myers said.

"Without that," he added, "people are often on their own."

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Myers said that through youth ministries, all communities of faith can engage with young people in a positive way before they embark on a path that leads to trouble.

"It's hard to reach kids and get them to listen; the faith community has a significant influence over their congregations," Myers said.

Myers added that Gerri Leach, executive director of a local organization called Jail Chaplains, has been instrumental in enlisting the participation of local clergy in getting the word out about the deadly risks people take when they use the increasingly potent drugs snaking their way into communities.

The federal prosecutor said an organizing meeting with local clergy is planned for Aug. 23, which will be followed by a community wide forum from 6:30-8 p.m. Sept. 7 at Fargo South High School.

The latter is the third Arms Wide Open forum, following two held earlier this year-one at West Fargo High School and another at the Fargo Theatre.

The first event featured speakers and a panel discussion, while the second focused on a video documentary of the dangers of opioid addiction followed by a discussion of community members.

Myers said the Sept. 7 event will feature speakers that include Drug Enforcement Agency Administrator Chuck Rosenberg, as well as North Dakota Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley and Cass County State's Attorney Birch Burdick.

The event will also include resource booths showcasing support services available to those with addictions and their families.

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Myers said each forum is intended to include as many people and organizations as possible.

"This issue affects everybody in the community. Everybody," Myers said.

Related Topics: CRIME
I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com
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