ASHLAND, Ky. — Pastor Jeremy Couture went with purpose in searching for a theme for Unity Baptist Church’s Judgement House program that begins Wednesday night.
The choice of a drug overdose was taken “from the daily headlines in the news,” he said.
Drug abuse in northeastern Kentucky is at an epidemic level with Boyd County being the No. 3 county in the state – behind much larger Jefferson and Fayette – in number of overdose deaths in 2016.
Less than two weeks ago there were 14 overdoses and one death in a single night in Boyd County.
“It’s more serious or visible here, but the drug problem is in every community,” Couture said. “That’s why I preached it, too (last Sunday). The theme is powerful.”
Judgement House is a walk-thru drama that takes guests through a series of different scenes following a storyline featuring poor choices and drug abuse, causing those involved to face the consequences of their decisions.
The northeastern Kentucky church has been putting on the presentation for the past 15 years with a variety of themes. It takes about 100 volunteers to put on the drama. Between 1,200 and 1,500 guests are expected over the four days, Couture said.
“It brings the church members together,” he said. “They serve in a lot of behind-the-scene ways.”
Couture said the night when 14 overdosed and one died confirmed to him that the theme for Judgement House was the correct one. “We want the Judgement House theme to be relevant,” he said.
Throughout the many years of Judgement House, Couture said the church has been able to witnesses the impact on lives.
“It reminds us we need to reach beyond ourselves,” he said. “It’s a labor of evangelistic love to confront people with the truth of the gospel. We want to hold out the message of hope in Jesus Christ. It applies to any problem that someone may face.”
According to the latest report by the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, fatal overdoses statewide totaled 1,404 in 2016, a 7.4 percent increase from the previous year. Of those cases, toxicology data were available for 1,330 deaths, according to the report.
There were more than 40 deaths in Boyd, Greenup and Carter counties in 2016 from overdoses of illicit and/or prescription drugs inflicted intentionally or unintentionally, according to a report released recently.
In 2016, Boyd County led with 30 deaths reported as overdoses, many from fentanyl or heroin laced with fentanyl, which contributed to nearly half of all fatalities during the year. It was a factor in 623 lethal overdoses across the state, up from 459 in 2015. Heroin was involved in 456 deaths.
“It’s a growing problem,” Couture said of the drug culture. “As Christians and churches we need to get our hands around it and pray about it. I’m sure every family in our community has been impacted.”