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A ministry of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is calling on area faithful to step up for addiction awareness and recovery.

Mercy Hospice will partner with other area outreaches for the 20th annual Pro-Act Recovery Walk, sponsored by the Council of Southeast Pennsylvania.

Operated by archdiocesan Catholic Social Services (CSS), Mercy Hospice provides shelter, case management, life skills and parenting education to women overcoming substance abuse.

Normally, dozens of Mercy residents and staff would march through downtown Philadelphia with some 25,000 participants in the walk, which celebrates recovery and seeks to end the stigma surrounding those suffering from addiction.

Given COVID-19 concerns, a virtual walk will instead take place on Sept. 12, with details available on both Mercy Hospice’s website and on Pro-Act’s website.

Mercy Hospice is also asking interested individuals and parishes to organize their own recovery walks throughout September, which has been designated as National Recovery Month by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Donations raised from these efforts can be pledged and submitted to the hospice through an online form.

In addition, participants are encouraged to upload images of their walks on social media using the tag @MercyHospicePhilly.

“I am walking in memory of all those whose lives were robbed,” said Patricia Leon, an assistant coordinator in the archdiocesan Office for Child and Youth Protection.

Along with several coworkers, Leon plans to walk three miles Sept. 12 and to make a donation to Mercy Hospice afterwards.

While the virtual format is a first in Mercy’s 10-year involvement with the walk, the pandemic has made the effort even more critical.

Substance abuse has soared during COVID, with suspected drug overdoses up 18% and alcohol sales rising more than 25%. Drug and alcohol users are at greater risk of contracting the coronavirus due to compromised immunity and lung functioning.

Mental, emotional and spiritual wounds, all intensified by the pandemic, leave individuals vulnerable to addiction. In response, CSS and the archdiocesan Office for the New Evangelization have teamed up to create a holistic response to the addiction crisis that focuses on body, mind and spirit.

CSS’s Recovery and Hope webpage lists clinical and social service resources, including several emergency numbers and contact information for county-based agencies throughout the Greater Philadelphia area.

CSS refers individuals to rehabilitation treatment programs in the region, and offers recovery support through numerous programs. Outpatient counseling services are also available through Catholic Clinical Consultants to help individuals cope with stress, anxiety, relationship conflicts and other behavioral or mental health issues.

The evangelization office’s Hope in Christ webpage connects visitors with spiritual resources such as retreats, prayer gatherings, support ministries and videos.