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What Can We Learn from our Founders about the Opioid Epidemic?

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Epidemics are not new to Catholic health care or to the Catholic Church.

For centuries, members of religious congregations have provided care and treatment for epidemics in many parts of the world. Several saints offer inspiration for us today, including Camillus de Lillis who ministered to victims of the Bubonic plague, Damien of Molokai who cared for lepers, and Teresa of Calcutta who cared for people dying of HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis.

The opioid epidemic is the current epidemic that commands our attention and commitment. Those of us who work in the contemporary world of Catholic health care would benefit by embracing the stories and charisms of the founders who went before us. Because right now, we need to engage — and engage quickly — in our response to the opioid epidemic. We have the science, we have the strategies, but we need the fortitude and creativity to engage and sustain a response to care for ourselves and our communities.

As we build on a recent Health Progress article, Opioids — One More Epidemic for Catholic Health Care, and the inaugural Catholic Health USA podcast, Discussing the Opioid Epidemic and Health Care Disrupters, Fred Rottnek, MD, MAHCM, director of community medicine at Saint Louis University, discussed the inspiration of our founders and imagine their very practical calls-to-action for the opioid epidemic.