The Role of African-American Clergy in Providing Informal Services to Drug Users in the Rural South: Preliminary Ethnographic Findings

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To date, no ethnographic studies of the role of African-American clergy in providing informal services to drug users in the rural South have been reported. We use qualitative interviews with 15 African-American ministers and 26 African-American drug users in Arkansas' Mississippi River Delta region to explore this issue. All drug users reported significant religiosity, and 9 had discussed drug problems with clergy. Every minister had provided assistance to at least one drug user or their family during the previous year, including: direct counseling; referrals to treatment programs; aiding negotiations with formal institutions; and providing for basic needs. Ministers stated that clergy are not well-prepared to address drug problems, and most acknowledged a need for professional training. They also discussed harriers to education. The findings contribute to understanding rural informal drug treatment resources. They suggest that professional treatment providers should investigate the potential benefits of improving outreach efforts to assist African-American ministers engaged in drug abuse issues.



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