On June 22, Katie McCloskey, UCF Director of Social Responsibility, delivered a speech at the 2019 General Synod to introduce the Opioid Epidemic resolution. After her address, the resolution passed overwhelmingly. Below is the video from the Synod plenary and transcript of Katie’s speech.

Supporting a Resolution on “Recognizing Opioid Addiction as a Health Epidemic, Ensuring Access to Treatment and Pharmaceutical Corporate Responsibility”

Good morning. I’m Katie McCloskey, Director of Social Responsibility for United Church Funds. UCF and I support the goals of this resolution and believe that the UCC should as well.

In December, my father succumbed to cancer that had spread to his bones. Without opioid treatment, his last days would have been spent in unendurable pain. This experience validates one truth: Opioid treatment is necessary and humane for end of life care and for certain chronic conditions.

However, so many of us have stories of loved ones who have almost lost everything after becoming addicted to prescription opioids – having been prescribed an opioid for a tweaked muscle or a bulging disc. Grief, fear, distrust and anger rule when a family member or friend is in the throes of opioid addiction.

People of faith, churches across the country, states’ medical infrastructure and even our national life expectancy are being negatively impacted by opioid addiction.

Let’s stop to recognize that systemic drug addiction has impacted parts of American society before. The quote-unquote crack epidemic and the war on drugs broke cities, neighborhoods, and families apart. The United Church of Christ (UCC) has tirelessly worked to remedy that injustice and has condemned the unequal ways in which people of color were treated in the war on drugs. In now confronting opioids, and a largely white addicted populace, this resolution is additive to the UCC’s care for all.

This new epidemic, in its origins, is different. This opioid epidemic was borne of multibillion-dollar corporations, with all the itinerant finance and support, lying about the dependency profiles of the drugs they were making and creating an ever-expanding list of maladies for which these drugs should be prescribed. United Church Funds (UCF) is fighting complicity in this epidemic by demanding oversight changes in companies that are part of the opioid supply chain, as an active member of the Investors for Opioid Accountability. All investors can be supportive of these efforts by demanding change.

Members of the Council for Health & Human Service Ministries (CHHSM) of the UCC, which sponsored this resolution have a ground’s eye view: These organizations work to treat addicted patients; provide support and nurturing environments for family members, including children; and navigate coverage for treatment. If you or someone you love needs help, contact CHHSM and their staff can use their network to give assistance.

In recommending this resolution, we seek a clear statement that the opioid epidemic is an affront to Americans that could have been avoided and shall not be repeated. We invite congregations and UCC members to become involved in reducing stigma, advocating for additional Medicare/Medicaid funding for treatment, and becoming involved in activism on this issue.

This resolution supports the efforts of the UCC in combatting these injustices and wishes God’s mercy and love to those affected by opioid addiction.