Reckoning with addiction in Henry County

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By John Inscore Essick

Port Royal Baptist Church

Readers of this newspaper know by now that Henry County is in the midst of an addiction crisis.  Like so many communities in Kentucky and beyond, the people of Henry County are working to comprehend addiction and respond wisely, effectively and sustainably.  

In my dual roles as pastor and professor, I knew of the growing epidemic on a regional level, but I was awakened to the breadth and depth of our local challenges at the county addiction crisis forum in April 2016. 

That forum included remarks from Kentucky’s attorney general, EMS, local ministers, family members of victims of addiction and those in recovery.  

The speaker I most remember was Judge Jerry Crosby, who spoke of the complexity of the crisis and called for an equally robust and diverse response from the community.  

Judge Crosby had no easy answer for those in attendance, and this confirmed my own sense that there is no silver bullet solution.  

I agreed with Judge Crosby that night, and after more than a year of reading, researching and talking with others variously involved in the addiction crisis, I am even more convinced that he was right.  

Substance abuse and addiction is a deeply rooted problem with an array of necessary communal responses. 

For the last 18 months, I have been seeking to understand this crisis more fully.  I have read books, articles and lengthy reports. I have talked with elected officials, medical doctors, EMS personnel, community organizers, ministers, university professors, law enforcement officials and those involved in recovery efforts. I have learned much, and I am committed to learning and doing more.

I learned early on that Henry County is already responding to the addiction crisis in significant ways, and I will write in the future about important efforts such as COMPASS and Celebrate Recovery. 

I’ve also learned the importance of reducing the stigma associated with addiction, an aspect of this crisis I had given little thought to in the past. 

Learning and hearing from others convinced me of the need for a frank and sustained discussion about the roots of addiction and what education, prevention, intervention, recovery and return will require of us all. 

As part of my own effort to listen, learn and act in Henry County, I have committed to writing a monthly column for the “Henry County Local,” entitled “Reckoning with Addiction” with the goal of exploring addiction’s impact on our community from a different angle.

Some of my ideas include a report on a ride-along with EMS, a description of the COMPASS program and an exploration of the ways addiction-related deaths affect funerals and funeral homes.  

I will also write about common assumptions surrounding addiction and try to clarify and explain some of the medical and pharmaceutical terminology.

I intend to write about the human reality of pain and suffering, especially as they relate to the capacities, limits and ethics of modern medicine. A related idea involves exploring innovative and often controversial responses such as needle-exchange programs, mandatory drug-testing and methadone clinics.  

And finally, I hope to hear and learn from you, readers.  Towards that end, I have set up an email (hopeinhenry@gmail.com) for those who might wish to correspond with me on this topic in the coming days.  

I welcome your stories, ideas, concerns and other feedback on how we are reckoning with addiction in Henry County.  

If you have been addicted, are addicted, or have been impacted by the addiction of another, please feel free to email and share your story.  

All emails will remain confidential, but I also welcome conversation with those willing to share their stories with our community as a part of this series.

There are unique challenges facing Henry County where substance abuse and addiction is concerned, but there is also unique potential and giftedness for facing our addiction crisis if we choose to face it together.  

Ultimately, I hope this series of columns will be a source of hope.  

Optimism sits back and expects things to improve, but hope rolls up its sleeves and works toward that which it desires.  

Let us hope together in Henry County as we reckon with our addiction crisis.


Rev. Dr. John Inscore Essick is co-pastor of Port Royal Baptist Church and Associate Professor of Church History at Baptist Seminary of Kentucky in Georgetown.