Guest Column: Faith communities play a vital role in improving overall health

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By Julie Drake
Special to the Herald Times
RBC | I spent some time visiting with faith community leaders in both Meeker and Rangely this past month.Yes, voluntarily stepping into potentially contentious discussions. The reason: my strong belief that faith communities are the single most untapped resource in our communities to improve health.
I didn’t tell the faith leaders what to believe; they didn’t tell me what to do. Instead we politely discussed “what is going on in our communities,” shared resources, shared information and observations.We are working on many of the same projects, just sometimes scared to collaborate for fear of someone yelling “foul” and pointing out “separation of church and state.”
Yes, there were some uncomfortable and thought provoking moments in the discussions. We all come from different frames of reference, different upbringings, different political bents and varied theological beliefs. But we could all agree that improving the human condition and the need for more love and less hate is a commonality. Making the world a better place with less pain and tragedy is what we all seek. I learned about things like “yellow ribbon campaigns,” a local hippotherapy project (use of horses in therapeutic ways) and various youth ministries in our county. I shared research and facts about poverty, need for local foster care homes, disease prevalence and substance abuse issues.
A current and emerging concept in behavioral/mental health communities is the thought that the opposite of depression is not happiness, but rather it is “vitality.”The opposite of addiction is not just sobriety but also “connections and relationships” with others.Who better to be a collaborative partner to improve mental health than the various faith communities in our nation? Faith communities are generally vested in improving family vitality, helping others and teaching concepts of love of neighbor. Separation of church and state is commonly misinterpreted and thus logical collaborations never happen. I can’t wait to meet and motivate more faith leaders in the coming months. Their help is important and needed to improve the health and well-being of our county.

Julie Drake

Julie Drake is the Public Health Director
for Rio Blanco County.