News & Events
Mar 6, 2017
Pastoral Statement on Overdose Crisis: Archbishop J. Michael Miller CSB
Archbishop J. Michael Miller CSB of the Archdiocese of Vancouver recently issued a pastoral letter about the overdose crisis in Vancouver.
This crisis is not restricted to Vancouver; it also hits close to home. The streets of Victoria and Nanaimo, and other areas in our Diocese, are not immune to this crisis. While Archbishop Miller's letter focuses on Vancovuer, we urge you to consider how you might respond to this crisis in our own Diocese.
What follows are excerpts from Archbishop Miller's letter, available for download above or on the Archdiocese of Vancouver's website:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Following the teaching of Jesus, the Second Vatican Council calls us to scrutinize 'the signs of the times'. In the Lower Mainland, these signs are calling the Church to address today's lethal crisis of drug overdoses, in particular fentanyl and other opioids.
Last year, more than 900 British Columbians died from overdoses. On average, a life is taken every 10 hours—more than double the number of homicides and traffic fatalities combined. And the situation is not getting better.
The Government admits this is a public health emergency. On top of the $1.4 billion it spends annually on mental health and substance abuse, $10 million is being added for an addiction treatment research and training centre, as well as a Joint Task Force on Overdose Prevention focussing on addiction prevention, treatment and recovery.
As for Catholics, we recognize in this scourge a pressing call to see the face of Jesus in those who suffer and those who are tragically claimed by lethal drug overdoses.
By means of this Statement, I am inviting the Church in Vancouver to respond to the overdose crisis by reaching out to our society's suffering men, women and young people.
Before responding, however, we must first identify the causes of this health emergency. While there are many contributing factors, three of them deserve special consideration.
- Over-prescribing Opioids
- Social Isolation
- Mental Illness
Please download the letter to read more about these factors.
I invite our school and parish communities to consider how they can respond to the reality of drug abuse and mental illness. We have just ended our celebration of the Year of Mercy, which inspired us to practice more intentionally the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Let us continue to reach beyond our pews and parish organizations, recognizing the face of Christ in the marginalized—the lonely, the homeless, the imprisoned, the mentall ill, and the addicted.
As people of faith, we can speak up, increase public awareness about our mental health and addiction crisis, and take practical steps to address it. Specifically we can:
- urge elected officials to give the overdose crisis the attention it deserves by emphasizing the need for more treatment and residential care for those addicted;
- ask Government to tighten regulation of opioid manufacturing;
- call for more education around safe-prescribing practices;
- advocate for improved pain management training for physicians and care providers, and better management of chronic pain for all;
- support police in doing educational presentations in schools and communities; and
- promote support services in parishes and entities, such as 12-step programs and other recovery methods;
- contribute financially to organizations on the front lines of this battle.
The Church's response to the overdose crisis must imitate that of Jesus, who told us: "Whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do unto me" (Mt. 25:40). He identified himself with those who in his day were in need: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the incarcerated.
In 2017 Vancouver, Jesus would also identify himself with those afflicted by mental illness and addiction. As His disciples, we are called to do likewise.
J. Michael Miller CSB
Archbishop of Vancouver
February 16, 2017