Share This Page

Prosecutor, ex-Steeler talk motivation, drugs at high school forum

| Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

Former Steelers linebacker Robin Cole delivered the motivational message.

A prosecutor from the Mercer County District Attorney's Office countered with a threat.

Together, they were part of an anti-drug presentation Friday for regional educators and several hundred students at Kennedy Catholic High School in Hermitage.

“How did I not get trapped in addiction?” Cole asked the students, explaining that he was born in a poor neighborhood in Compton, Calif. with seven brothers and two sisters.

As a kid, he said, he dreamed of going to college but watched brother after brother graduate from high school, then join the military or get drafted for the Vietnam War.

Cole, of Eighty-Four, made it to college because he had “a vision, something you want so bad that you'll do whatever it takes to make it happen,” he said. “Who's going to make it happen? You have to make it happen.”

In recent years, opiate addiction exploded in Western Pennsylvania, officials said, affecting every age group and every socioeconomic background. The region's population is blue collar and one of the oldest in the country, meaning legally prescribed pain pills are common here, they said. The unintended result: people looking for a cheap high swipe pills from medicine cabinets, get hooked, then turn to the streets for heroin, which is cheaper and more potent and provides a similar high.

Shortly after Cole inspired the young crowd with his pro-hope and anti-drug message, Miles Karson, who fights drugs and gangs as a prosecutor, hit the students with some sobering reality.

He told them that anyone caught in a car with drugs divided into separate bags could be charged as an adult with a felony, even if he or she had no idea the baggies were in the car.

“Then you're a drug dealer (and) my whole objective in life will be to lock you up,” Karson said. Several kids laughed nervously. Karson responded: “I'm not kidding about that.”

The presentation was organized by ELM, a coalition of educators, lawyers and health care providers headed by Angelo Papa, a New Castle attorney. The event was the first of two days of presentations. Teachers meet on Saturday at the high school to discuss ways to combat drug use in Western Pennsylvania.

Dr. Neil Capretto, medical director at Gateway Rehabilitation Center, said fatal overdoses are soaring here.

In Allegheny County alone, officials reported a record 261 fatal overdoses in 2011, up from 226 the year before, he said. Opiates cause most drug fatalities.

“This is a serial killer,” Capretto said.

Students said it helped to hear the message from differing viewpoints.

“Even at a young age, you're not invincible,” said senior Chris Zehner. “I have two brothers and sisters, and I'm always worried about them. I don't want them going down that path.”

Chris Togneri is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5632 or ctogneri@tribweb.com.

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.