Sage's Army marches on courthouse
Sage's Army, an Irwin-based drug-awareness group, marched on the Westmoreland County Courthouse recently in the hope of promoting compassion toward and awareness of those fighting addictions.
Carmen Capozzi, 46, formed the organization after his son, Sage Capozzi, 19, died on March 5, 2012, of a heroin overdose promote awareness of drug problems among teens and create better lines of communication between parents, their children, law enforcements and educators.
He said he hopes to reach as many families and children as possible and inform them about why they should avoid drugs and not be afraid to discuss their encounters with illegal substances and addiction, Capozzi said.
“This is all about awareness and breaking the stigma of addiction,” Capozzi said. “My goal is to just bring public attention to the growing drug epidemic in Westmoreland County by coming together with recovering addicts, police and elected officials.
“The bottom line is we're all in this together, and it takes all of us working as one to make a change.”
The march marked the second time Sage's Army took its message to the courthouse.
Capozzi said he hopes people realize drug addiction and use is in their neighborhood, and average people are becoming addicts. He said fear of discrimination keeps people from seeking help or reaching out to others.
“I want everyone to realize addicts are not necessarily bad people because drugs don't discriminate; they take good, bad, poor and rich people,” he said. “We shouldn't be afraid to speak openly about addiction.”
This year is shaping up to be a record-breaking year for overdose-related deaths, according to Westmoreland County Coroner Kenneth Bacha.
Bacha said county officials reported 78 overdose deaths in 2012.
As of June 28, Bacha said, the county confirmed 46 drug-overdose deaths, with an additional seven probable overdose cases awaiting a toxicology report.
“This puts us on pace to experience approximately 110 (drug overdose deaths) by the year's end,” he said.
Assistant District Attorney Leo Ciaramitaro described drug use as an epidemic in Westmoreland County. He said an engaged community, with members who are willing to talk to their children and each other about drugs, is the only way to combat addiction.
“Unfortunately, we have a lot of work to do with drugs,” Ciaramitaro said. “We have to remain engaged with our kids and just talk to our friends and neighbors.”
The county has seen an increase in indicator crimes, which users sometimes commit in order to procure drugs, Ciaramitaro said. The most common indicator crime is retail theft, he said.
“These crimes don't necessarily seem to be drug-related, but the person is involved in the drug scene and are stealing to help get their drugs,” Ciaramitaro said. “Drugs are not free, and to get drugs, people have to give something to their dealer.”
In 2008, Ciaramitaro said the district attorney's office saw 348 counts of retail theft across the county. He said the number of retail thefts grew to 494 counts in 2012.
Although he did not indicate exactly how many cases were tied to drugs, Ciaramitaro said it is not uncommon for people to trade stolen items for drugs.
His office also saw the number of drug-paraphernalia cases grow from 546 in 2008 to 669 in 2012, Ciaramitaro said.
“We're seeing a lot more arrests,” Ciaramitaro said. “We've gone up by 130 in four years, and the majority of those are heroin related.”
Capozzi hopes to keep Sage's Army in the public eye by attending as many local events as possible.
“Sage's Army is a group of people who have lived it. It's parents helping parents and addicts helping addicts get through this,” Capozzi said. “I don't want to see any other parents ever have to go through this.”
Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Polamalu could be next in long line of Steelers greats given unceremonial exit
- Over the falls — Cucumber Falls that is — go 3 kayakers in OhioPyle
- Wolf reverses Corbett, says deal between Highmark, UPMC doesn’t limit continuity of care to very ill
- Penguins’ Lovejoy embracing defensive pairing with Pouliot
- Rossi: Kang would benefit from less attention
- Football star’s mom embraced life with gusto
- Experts: Clinton took dangerous path with email system
- Federal jury says gas company shorted owners on royalties
- Pirates pitcher Locke fighting for 5th spot in starting rotation
- Pitt star running back Conner likes to give back, savors charity work
- Pitt coach Narduzzi wants star RB Conner to focus on offense