What started out as a problem-solving idea for my community to address the influx of heroin on our streets in 2003, is now an evidence-based prevention program impacting over 55,000 parents and children.
It was the voice of parents at town meetings and forums that helped design Reality Tour. Parents wanted a prevention program they could attend with their child to learn about the risks together. In 2003, no such program existed. The task at hand was to develop a parent/child program to relate the risks and consequences of drug misuse and offer ways to avoid experimentation. It had to be interactive, engaging and up to date on drug trends.
Reality Tour began with narrated scenes showing the consequences, interactive coping skills and hearing from youth in recovery to show addiction can happen to anyone. The response from parents was immediate and soon there was a 3-month wait to attend. Because of extensive TV news coverage, other communities were asking how they could start this program. The 501c3 nonprofit organization Community Action Network for Drugfree Lifestyle Empowerment (CANDLE, Inc) was formed.
By 2007, with Reality Tours now in other states, the need to reach evidence-based status was a priority. Through a research grant, a study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy resulted in acceptance to SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP)
Over the years, Reality Tour has evolved into an easy to replicate, sustainable prevention system with a common sense approach. Finally, communities have a way to ‘take care of their own’ when it comes to prevention.