Speaking at the National Rx Drug and Heroin Abuse Summit in Atlanta, President Donald Trump told attendees that his support for faith-based initiatives was critical for the effort to combat the opioid crisis.
The summit draws thousands from the medical, government and advocate community together to discuss strategies for curbing the impact of opioid addiction in the United States. During his keynote address, Trump highlighted the initiatives fronted by his administration, including increased funding, drug take-back programs, increased access to the overdose reversal drug Naloxone and supporting faith-based recovery initiatives.
His remarks were punctuated when he asked State Director of Faith-Based Initiatives for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Monty Burks to join him on stage. The president introduced Burks as a former addict who was ushered into recovery "when two women of prayer from his hometown church helped him get onto a path of recovery."
The president went on to say that critical to combating the opioid crisis, "is my strong support for faith-based initiatives. America is a nation that believes in the power of prayer and strength of fellowship and we believe in the grace of God."
After touting support for faith-based drug rehabilitation @realDonaldTrump says "America is a nation that believes in the power of prayer and the strength of fellowship and we believe in the grace of God." pic.twitter.com/yFX5lKDtwz
— Robert Jimison (@RobertJimison) April 24, 2019
Religious and spiritual interventions have been part of American history for centuries and became intertwined with government policy in the early 2000s when President George W. Bush issued his first executive order to established the White House Faith-Based & Community Initiative. The program allowed faith-based community organizations providing social services to apply for federal grants to promote their work.
The program, an expansion of the "Charitable Choice" provision started during President Bill Clinton's administration in the 1990s, sparked similar programs to be created in states around the country, like the one Burks leads in Tennessee.
Beyond funding projects, many federal agencies connect people in need of resources such as addiction specialists, counselors and other social services offered by local faith-based organizations with a proven track record for success and results.
The U.S. Center For Disease Control and Prevention frequently directs people toward cessation programs held in churches, synagogues, temples, monasteries, mosques and other places of worship stating that they are "natural centers for spiritual, emotional and physical wellness."
Over the past two decades, researches have become more invested into evaluating the success of faith-based programs with respect to health outcomes. Some studies have reflected the positive impacts that initiatives organized around religious institutions can have.
Critics of using tax dollars to fund programs organized by religious organizations say that it violates the establishment clause of the first amendment that prohibit government from any actions that unduly favor one religion over another. Other critics argue politicans use federal funds to assist programs directed by political allies.
The promotion of faith-based programs and initiatives is just one facet of the Trump administration's comprehensive approach to combating the opioid crisis in America. During his speech, Trump also touted the increased funding for medication-assisted treatment programs and targeting ports of entry to stop the influx of illegal drugs from other countries.