Thrive by IU Health

August 24, 2023

Chaplains, congregations join hands to help minister to those facing substance misuse

Chaplains, congregations join hands to help minister to those facing substance misuse

An innovative partnership is reaching out to Hoosiers 50 and older to offer substance abuse prevention and mental health services.

By TJ Banes, IU Health Senior Journalist,

Improved health doesn’t start and end at the hospital. Where people live, work, play, and worship are increasingly playing a role in their quality of life.

To help bridge the gap between hospital and home, IU Health initiated a program called, “Congregational Care Network” (CCN). More than two dozen congregations in Marion and Monroe Counties have trained volunteers to visit patients after they have been discharged from the hospital. Through regular contact, the volunteers provide a social aspect that may otherwise be missing from patients’ daily lives.

Now, that network has expanded to specifically assist residents 50 and older, facing substance misuse and mental health challenges.

“We’ve tried to identify congregations who have experienced working with people with mental health and substance misuse issues,” said IU Health Chaplain Greg Morse, who is overseeing the program. There are now three congregations in Marion County and one in Morgan County with members paired with those needing services.

“Most of the time we have referrals from our existing partnering congregations when we are looking to expand our program. This allows us to connect with congregations that have the knowledge and internal process to hit the ground running. Additionally, we have connected with organizations doing similar work such as the Wellness Connection in Marion County and Stability First in Morgan County. This offers an extra layer to the care,” said Morse. The Congregational Care Network was realized after so many people experienced the isolation related to the pandemic. As the program took flight, congregants identified other factors that needed to be addressed especially among the 50 and over population.

As connections are established those working in the community are equipped to provide awareness about substance abuse and education, treatment and prevention resources. Connectors listen to the patient’s concerns, help patients navigate the healthcare system and communicate patient concerns to providers. Congregational volunteers spend at least one hour a week talking to patients - either by phone or in person. The initiative is funded by a grant from the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA).

“I’ve always had a caring nature and part of my ministry is wanting people to do well and have a healthy life,” said Morse, who has been with IU Heath for five years. Prior to that he pastored at a church on the westside of Chicago for nearly a decade.

“As I grew in the ministry, I wanted to be involved in programs that address the social determinants of health,” said Morse. Social determinants of Health (SDOH) are the non-medical factors that influence health outcomes. The US Department of Human Services lists five key areas of SDOH: Economic Stability, Education Access and Quality, Health Care Access and Quality, Neighborhood and Environment, and Social and Community.