A partner ministry of The General Commission on Religion and Race
March 2022   
Volume 12, #1

A lit candle in a tan gray clay pot with the words "Let your light shine" against a green background.
of the
United Methodist
 Disability Connection

Greetings and welcome to The Voice, Mental Health Edition

We hope and pray that you are well and are deepening your relationship with God during this Lenten season.

The Mental Health Task Force is excited to be starting our second year of shining light on mental health in the context of United Methodist congregations and agencies!

In this issue of we offer an eclectic collection of articles. We begin with guidelines for helping people struggling with opioid abuse and continue with an update on Mental Health Ministries (founded by Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder) and its new association with Pathways to Promise. Following that, we review what the United Methodist Church believes about mental health. We close with a proposed resolution submitted to General Conference, now scheduled for 2024.

Yours in service to Christ,

Deaconess Sharon McCart
Chair, Mental Health Task Force
5 Ways for Congregations to Help Persons Struggling with Opioid Abuse
Cover to the Opioid Crisis Practical Toolkit with The Partnership Center, Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives, US Dept. of Health and Human Services at the top and stylized blue buildings against a green landscape at the bottom.
1.  Increase your awareness and understanding about our current opioid crisis. 

Start with the outstanding resource The Opioid Crisis Practical Toolkit: Helping Faith-based and Community Leaders Bring Hope and Healing developed by The Partnership Center – Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This resource has an extensive collection of suggestions to access to help you increase your congregation’s understanding of the problem. 

More information on Opioid Crisis Resources

2.  Share your church’s rooms as meeting places for “12 Step” groups including Narcotics Anonymous.

Invite members of the groups you host to your church services, Bible studies, fellowship events, etc. Ask groups for speakers who might be interested in sharing their ‘stories’ with your congregations to help increase your congregation's understanding of the situation. Always remain mindful of all participants’ rights for anonymity and confidentiality. 

More information on Narcotics Anonymous and on Nar-Anon for family members and friends.
Drawing of two brown medication bottles with white and red pills in front of them and the text Shed the Med overlaid on the bottles.
3.   Schedule safe disposal of expired medications or “Shed the Med” opportunities at your church.

Another option is to research and share information about when and where this regularly happens in your community. Always remember to be environmentally safe about this! 

More information about safe disposal of medications.

4.   Offer “Narcan” training to members of your congregation.

Narcan or Naloxone is a life-saving medication that can be administered by lay persons to reverse an opioid overdose before emergency assistance arrives. This video explains the process. 

More information on naloxone use. See also the Overdose Lifeline.

5. Think of Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) as a chronic medical disease like diabetes.

Like insulin-dependent diabetes, OUD responds best to Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT). Advocate that MAT be readily available as the evidence- based treatment modality in settings including the jails and prisons. 

More information about Medication-Assisted Treatment.
Contributed by Susan Dewey-Hammer, New York Annual Conference
Mental Health Ministries is now a Program of Pathways to Promise
Logo for Mental Health Ministries - To erase the stigma of mental illness - a Program of Pathways to Promise with teal letters and yellow highlights.

Mental Health Ministries was founded by United Methodist pastor Rev. Susan Gregg-Schroeder in 2001. She began with a series of videos based on the United Methodist “Caring Communities” program (see Resolution #3301, 2016), which she renamed “Caring Congregations” to reach an interfaith audience. Helping faith communities develop into caring congregations became the impetus for a wide variety of resource materials that Rev. Gregg-Schroeder created for Mental Health Ministries over the years. 
Logo of Pathways to Promise: Connecting mental health, faith, and culture since 1988 with blue rays from a stylized sun and colored landscape strips below.
Pathways to Promise was founded in 1988 by 15 faith groups and two mental health organizations “to promote caring ministry with persons who have prolonged mental illness and their families.” Both the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries and United Methodist General Board of Church and Society were among the founding members. Over the years Pathways has provided publications, consultations, conferences and presentations, research and referrals, as well as technical assistance and collaboration. As support from denominations diminished, Pathways has successfully sought and found new sources of funding. 

Chaplain Craig Rennebohm’s book Souls in the Hands of a Tender God reflects the development of the Companionship Program, part of the Mental Health Chaplaincy ministry he started on the streets of Seattle in 1987. This is a model of outreach to persons who are living in homelessness and struggling with serious mental health issues. Companions “act on our concern for another person offering the encouragement of five basic spiritual practices: hospitality, neighboring, journeying side-by-side, listening, and accompaniment. Pathways to Promise has made training in Companionship a major focus of its work, with workshops offered across the United States.
Upon Rev. Gregg-Schroeder’s retirement in 2021, Mental Health Ministries became a program of Pathways to Promise. The new coordinator is Jessica Dexter, a former chaplain at the Mental Health Chaplaincy which recently also merged with Pathways to Promise. Further information about Pathways can be found at their website. Mental Health Ministries, while a program of Pathways, retains its own website. Any congregation with members facing mental health challenges – and assuredly every congregation has such members – will find an extensive collection of helpful resources and opportunities on these combined sites.

Contributed by Rev. Dr. Jackson Day, Baltimore-Washington Conference
What the United Methodist Church
Believes about Mental Illness
Mental illness affects approximately 20% of the population each year, per the National Institute of Mental Health. This percentage is undoubtedly higher because of the toll that COVID-19 has taken over the past two years, as too many loved ones have died, too many jobs have been lost, and our typical means of socializing and de-stressing have been taken away.

The Mental Health Task Force has been addressing the need for increased knowledge and response from the church through these newsletters and by providing additional resources on the Disability Ministries Committee’s website as well as links on the Disability Ministries Committee of The United Methodist Church Facebook page.

The United Methodist Church has addressed mental health issues in the Book of Resolutions. It is time to revisit what we, as a denomination, believe. You can review the comprehensive document Ministries in Mental Illness at this UMC.org link. This resolution summarizes our theology and how we have agreed to live out what we believe, from support for our clergy, how our boards and agencies can help, ways to partner with mental health agencies and much more. Please have a look!

In addition to the above document, which is based on existing legislation and resolutions, the following petition was submitted in 2016 but not supported in committee. It has been submitted for General Conference 2020 and we will be working to build support for its passage when General Conference is held in 2024 after being postponed for four years. Read the petition text below.
Petition: Non-discrimination in Disability Compensation
A blue scroll with the words GC 2024 Petition.
"Long term disability insurance protects employees around the world by providing continuing compensation in lieu of salary when an accident or illness prevents an employee from continuing their service to their employer. Ideally, such insurance provides for compensation based purely on the existence of a disability that prevents continuing employment, and continues for the duration of that disability.

In many countries such insurance is often subject to a limitation for disabilities based on 'mental and nervous conditions.' The primary reason offered for such a discrimination between disabilities is the comparative difficulty of validating disabilities whose evidence relies on self-reporting. Other reasons may include the belief that mental and nervous conditions are more likely temporary in nature and therefore a time limitation, typically two years, is appropriate. The limitation therefore places the administrative needs of insurers over the wellbeing of the persons they are committed to insure. In the United States, courts have held that discrimination in disability insurance is not addressed by non-discrimination provisions of either the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Affordable Care Act. In the United States, disability insurance is generally regulated at the state level.

The United Methodist Church affirms its long-standing support for persons with mental illness and their families. Jesus Christ made no distinctions in his healing ministry between persons with physical disabilities and those which we might today call mental illnesses. We call upon the General Board of Church and Society to advocate globally on behalf of non-discriminatory long-term disability insurance for workers, and to support and encourage the work of annual conference boards of church and society in such advocacy at state and regional legislative bodies.”
If you would like to help support the petition's passage, or if you have any questions regarding the document, please contact us at the DMC email address.
As always, we welcome your feedback and suggestions. Please send them to us at the committee e-mail address and include "Mental Health" in your subject line.

Mental Health Task Force of the Disability Ministries Committee of The United Methodist Church