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Armstrong brings focus to serious issues

| Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, 12:51 a.m.
Louis B. Ruediger
Participants in the Community Awareness Day, Jo Ellen Bowman of HAVIN, District Attorney Scott Andreassi and District Judge J. Gary DeComo, hold a sign to promote the fall family event that will take place Monday at the Lenape Technical School from 4:30 to 7 p.m.

It's hard to miss the many news headlines reporting crimes related to drug use or tragedies that stem from incidents of physical and mental abuse — from online bullying cases to driving accidents caused by texting on the road or driving under the influence.

That's why county officials and professionals are working proactively to prevent these tragedies and crimes from happening by hosting a Community Awareness Day on Monday evening in Lenape Technical School in Manor.

The family-friendly event, from 4:30 to 7 p.m., will kick off a weeklong discussion in area schools addressing one or more of those issues.

“The key is to raise a level of prevention awareness,” said District Judge J. Gary DeComo, who first spearheaded the annual event nine years ago.

“Most of the major criminal cases we have today are the result of prescription pain medication or heroin,” he said. “Most of the heroin addicts I see were first addicted to pain medications.”

DeComo noted that the prevention message is crucial because once users become addicted, recovery is a life sentence.

“Our local kids are getting addicted to pain relievers and progress to using a combination of medications and heroin,” he said. “All heroin addicts and their families have one thing in common: They never thought it would happen to them.”

The Community Awareness Day event has expanded over the years under the collaborative efforts of Armstrong County District Attorney Scott Andreassi, HAVIN's Director Jo Ellen Bowman, county Sheriff Larry Crawford and representatives from law enforcement and from multiple area businesses and agencies, including Armstrong County Community Foundation, Armstrong County Children, Youth and Family Services, Holy Family Services, ACMH Foundation and the Armstrong County School District.

Many of those representatives are featured in a video discussing a variety of prevention and awareness topics that will be shown to students (grades 7 through 12) within Armstrong School District, DeComo said.

Elementary school students will have the opportunity to fill out an Armstrong County Community Awareness Day school pledge against bullying and against alcohol, tobacco and illegal-drug use.

DeComo said that Community Awareness Day is an important resource because it allows those involved to address issues that need the most attention.

“Every year, we deal with a different aspect,” he said.

This year, he said, there will be a discussion on the perils of texting while driving.

Bowman said her message will focus on issues related to elder abuse; child abuse and neglect; and domestic and sexual assault prevention.

“We really need to come together as a community to work with each other and for each other to combat these crimes,” Bowman said.

“I'm really grateful for the concerted effort of the many professionals who put this together,” she said.

Monday's event at Lenape Technical School will include food, crafts, clowns, magicians, jousting, sumo wrestling, video games, family photos and music.

Other sponsors involved in the event include Bill Barker/Barker Companies, F&M Bank, Dr. Paul Lobby, Lenape Technical School, Dr. Ryan Olsen, The Horse Trader and McDonalds (Franklin Village).

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or bbeatty@tribweb.com.

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