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Churches embrace role in addiction recovery for 'Recovery Sunday'

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BRISTOL, Va. - State leaders say southwest Virginia's struggling economy and high number of disabled residents are likely a major cause of the opioid addiction epidemic. There are efforts on many fronts to combat that epidemic.

"We should be leading the forefront I think because we have a message of hope in Christ that can really change a life," Highlands Fellowship Church Pastor Allan Jessee said.

Highlands Fellowship has a mission to tackle problems it calls community giants. All six of its church campuses are involved in helping families in need.

Jessee said, "Every family seemed to be affected by addiction in some way. So, they took the giant of addiction. Most campuses took the giants of hungry kids and single parents. Then, we realized all those are sort of tied together."

Pastor Jessee said the church has an opportunity to make a difference in the drug addiction epidemic. Change also begins this weekend as Highlands Fellowship campuses and several other churches designate 'Recovery Sunday.'

State leaders say it is an essential step.

"This is a problem that requires a community, and we know the fabric of every community in southwest Virginia is the church," Delegate Todd Pillion said.

Pillion led the passage of new regulations that are reducing the number of opioid prescriptions written by doctors, but he said the government can only do so much.

"There are people other than government officials that are willing, able, and ready to help with this recovery," Pillion said.

'Recovery Sunday' will be about the power of storytelling: people sharing their stories of recovery and drawing strength from faith and from others to continue to heal.

"This is where recovery should begin," Pillion said.

Highlands Fellowship has group meeting regularly to tackle the addiction issue, as well as other problems they have listed as priorities in the community.

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