Murrysville man aims to start drug awareness program

Tribune-Review – February 21, 2013
By Mary Pickels

A Murrysville man will hold a Reality Tour planning session at 6 p.m. Monday in an effort to activate the drug and alcohol awareness program in his community.

Shannon Gazze attended a Reality Tour informational session Wednesday at the Westmoreland County Courthouse.
He invited area residents to attend next week’s meeting at Murrysville’s municipal building.

“We are planning a fall launch,” he said.

Gazze said he hopes the tours, which feature real stories and scenarios from people affected by drugs and alcohol, can be held monthly either in a Franklin Regional School District building or the municipal building.

Gazze attended a Reality Tour at the courthouse more than a year ago.

“I’ve always wanted to bring it to our area. This will be an information meeting to sign up volunteers. We are looking for sponsors,” he said.

Wednesday’s “Start a Reality Tour in 90 Days” was held in response to requests for information and heightened awareness of the need for prevention, following recent drug overdose deaths.

“If you have 12 people who care, you can start this program,” said Norma Norris, Reality Tour developer and nonprofit CANDLE executive director.

The training model’s $3,500 fee often is funded through grants from the state attorney general’s fines and forfeitures program, Norris said. Some businesses offer financial support, she said.

The Reality Tour is a “consequence-driven” prevention program for parents and children ages 10 to 18. “Parents are the most powerful prevention tool. Parents don’t always know that,” Norris said.

Earlier this month, Hempfield Area High School senior Jonathan Morelli, 18, became the latest drug overdose fatality in Westmoreland County, one of five the coroner’s office has investigated this month.

The overdose deaths brought the number so far this year to 16, according to coroner Ken Bacha.

Overdose deaths in Westmoreland reached an all-time high in 2012. Bacha’s deputies investigated 71 overdose deaths last year, surpassing the record of 64 in 2011, according to year-end statistics.

Active in Westmoreland County since 2007, the Reality Tour’s popularity has grown to the point that waiting lists were created, Norris said.

Hempfield Area school board director Randy Stoner helped to initiate a voluntary home-drug testing program in the district and promotes Reality Tours for students.

“In 2012 the Norwin Lions Club started a Reality Tour in Irwin and is now reaching hundreds of families,” Norris said.

Mt. Pleasant recently acquired the program through the aid of its Drug Awareness Committee and District Judge Roger Eckels.

Additional school districts that partner with Reality Tour include Derry Area, Greater Latrobe, Norwin, Penn-Trafford and Jeannette.

For more information, visit, or contact Norris at 724-679-1788.

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