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Churches vow to fight heroin abuse in Annapolis

Andrea Blackstone | 12/5/2014, 6 a.m.
Heroin use in on the rise in Annapolis. On Friday, November 28, 2014 church leaders, government officials and police met ...
Annapolis Mayor Pantelides; Major Scott Baker; Bill Haley, Jr.; Capt. Cynthia Howard; and Chris Haley attend the guest reception before the kick-off of the Thanksgiving conference at Bridge Church in Annapolis on Friday, November 28, 2014. (Photo: Andrea Blackstone)

— Heroin use in on the rise in Annapolis. On Friday, November 28, 2014 church leaders, government officials and police met at Bridge Church in Annapolis to launch an effort to combat the city’s heroin problem.

Bill Chamberlin, pastor of Bridge Church said that over 12 pastors and church leaders across all denominations attended the event, which incorporated a call for action to pray for Annapolis, city leaders and the police force for one year.

Police officers have been cracking down on the deadly drug in response to a surge of fatal heroin overdoses in Annapolis. Authorities said there have been 11 fatal heroin overdoses since 2012 in Annapolis. Three occurred this year. According to Anne Arundel County Police Spokeswoman Amy Miguez, the county ranked third in the state for fatal heroin overdoses in 2013.

In response, Annapolis police officers began carrying Naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of heroin. Officers were trained to administer the nasal spray when responding to heroin overdose call.

Ruth Ruibal— a pastor and author from Colombia— provided a first-hand account about how pastors can unite to transform cities through prayer. Ruibal led a strategic prayer workshop for local pastors and church leaders. Her late husband was killed in 1995, while working with his wife to immobilize a notorious drug cartel. The couple was instrumental in uniting up to 50,000 believers in to attend prayer vigils in the city of Cali. Afterward, well-known drug lords were arrested. Homicide rates began to fall.

Leaders are hopeful that partnership and prayer can help restore Annapolis.

“We’re in a situation now in this county, as everyone in this room knows that we really need faith-based organizations to be a part of the police department, and the police department to be a part of faith-based organizations, because the leaders of the church hear what communities say. Sometimes we as police don’t hear those words,” police Maj. Scott Baker said.

Police relationships with the public have been strained in many cities nationwide. However, Annapolis police officers were honored for serving the community.

Bill Haley Jr., grandson of Alex Haley, and ancestor of Kunta Kinte, traveled from Southern California to represent the Alex Haley Roots Foundation and participate in the conference.

“You all experience circumstances on a day-to-day basis that can be difficult. We want to honor you at the Alex Haley Roots Foundation, by reminding you that beyond all the bad, beyond anything negative, there [are] a lot of positives,” he said.

“We’re just really grateful that men and women like you exist and do the hard work. Work that often goes unacknowledged,” Bill Jr. said to law enforcement officials.

Maj. Scott Baker and Capt. Cynthia Howard were the first police officials to receive specially designed pins created with Alex Haley’s personal motto, “find the good and praise it,” engraved on them. Every Annapolis police officer in Annapolis will be given the token of appreciation. Local churches also sponsored a dinner buffet for approximately 30 police officers in between shifts on November 29, 2014.