By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli
The American landscape continues to be burdened with conflict, dishonesty and ineffective leadership at every level of government. As I write this column, more than 800,000 federal employees will not be paid because of a government shutdown. They unfortunately are being held captive by a government that is paralyzed on both sides of the aisle.
As the New Year begins, let’s not be distracted by a political rhetoric that is more fixated on ad hominem attacks and divisiveness, but rather let us support positive action on behalf of all Americans.
Our country is founded on the principle of “we the people.” We must renew our commitment to stand up for social justice, for equality and inclusiveness for all people, no matter what their ethnicity, race, color, sexual orientation, economic or social status.
The leaders of our faith community, both locally and nationally, must move out of their coma of silence, not become political or feed the rhetoric of hate and divisiveness, but rather they must stand up and call us to civility and a discourse that supports and respects the human dignity and integrity of every American citizen.
At the beginning of every New Year, we traditionally make a series of New Year’s resolutions that we break by Jan. 2. This year let’s identify some important social issues that urgently need to be addressed and work diligently at creative solutions that will improve the quality of life in all of our communities.
Homelessness is a growing problem across our county. Our traditional approach is a poor Band-Aid that sets most homeless up for failure. The poor and the homeless live in the shadows. They’ve no fixed address so they have no political representation — no one to voice their concerns and struggles.
Our Department of Health and Human Services, which is charged to deal with the homeless, is working with an antiquated model that is outdated and inefficient, therefore costing you, the taxpayer, an extraordinary amount of money and does little to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness in our midst.
Let us be mindful that more and more of our homeless are mentally ill, drug addicts and returning veterans suffering from untreated PTSD. We lack the basic human resources to break their cycle of dependency on the system.
The opioid crisis is worse than it was last year. As I write this column, I buried two more young people who died senselessly because of this epidemic.
The president of the United States called the opioid epidemic a national health crisis. It is, but again we pay lip service to a national infection but are doing little to treat it effectively. Evidence-based treatment says we need long-term residential treatment beds for a minimum of one year to 18 months, if we hope to empower the recovering addict to wellness and long-term recovery.
We have very limited resources in this regard. The few resources we do have are overtaxed with referrals and are underfunded. The time for talking is over; it’s time for positive action!
These two issues are massive. However, I am optimistic that we have the people and the resources to make a difference. We need to think outside the box, be creative, be willing to risk and most importantly believe we can make a difference that counts. I do!
Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.