Addiction awareness program set for St. Juan Diego Parish

Tawnya Panizzi
| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

With drug overdoses in the Alle-Kiski Valley on the rise and following national trends, St. Juan Diego Parish in Sharpsburg will host a presentation about addiction and the impact on loved ones.

Brother Mark Lowery, outreach manager of a voluntary residential program for addicts, will offer the free presentation to the community at 1 p.m. Sunday in the John Paul Center, along Ninth Street.

“We want to make people aware of what addiction is about,” Lowery said, “And how they can work on getting into recovery.”

Lowery has for 13 years run Michael's Place in Pittsburgh's Garfield neighborhood, a voluntary, residential program for ex-offenders who are making the transition from jail or prison to independent living.

The program provides compassionate help for spiritual, physical, psychological and social well-being, Lowery said.

Of the 3,000 men in jail, 92 percent need recovery, Lowery said.

“But not everybody wants it,” he said.

Describing Michael's Place as a house of hope, Lowery said it is home to 12 men who spend two years transitioning back into daily life.

“These people want to be here. They are not court-ordered,” he said.

The Rev. Michael Decewicz, pastor of St. Juan Diego, said he believes in the program and that the presentation could help many people.

He helped arrange for the free session.

“It is a marvelous facility that helps those who are struggling with addiction and who have been released from incarceration to transition into healthy living,” he said.

Some of Lowery's residents will be on hand Sunday to talk about their battles with addiction and the impact of their ongoing struggles.

Lowery said his job is to give residents a foundation.

“We help them begin to deal with problems they didn't know how to deal with before,” he said.

Lowery helps residents get acclimated with everyday life by providing help with a variety of tasks, such as seeking a sponsor to getting a state photo-identification card.

He helps them find a job, go back to school and attend recovery meetings.

He accepts as residents only people who are willing to participate fully, but in exchange, they graduate from the program, and most are fully employed, which earns them credibility and stability.

“We just had a fellow move on, and he had a job, he reunited with his family,” he said.

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at

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