What: Pike County Realty Tour, drug abuse awareness
When: March 19 and April 23, 6 - 9 p.m.
Where: Milford Bible Church
For who: Ages 10 & up, with parent
Info: www.realtytour.org; Jill Gamboni, 570-390-9102

MILFORD - “Reality Tour” is in its eighth year in Milford, bringing a dramatic encounter for young people into the true costs of drug abuse.
    Hosted by the Pike County Alliance for Prevention Programs, Jill Gamboni, Director of the Reality Tour, explained that the focus is on youth, but a parent must accompany the tour with the child. This is meant to educate both the parent and child in the dangers of drug abuse and what can be done.
  Six powerful scenes are presented using actual police officers and ambulance workers and Delaware Valley High School Drama Club members. Testimonials are given by three recovering addicts, two come from stable families and one from an abusive family. The idea, she said, is to underscore that drugs follow no socio-economic boundaries.
   Attendants are led through the following portrayals. The first scene depicts peer pressure to use drugs; the second, an arrest on drug charges; third, jail time; fourth, an overdose, with the “victim” being taken out by an ambulance crew; fifth, an emergency room depiction where the young person who overdosed dies and sixth, a somber funeral scene.
   She said that the scenes are “very realistic.”
   Gamboni spoke at the Pike County Commissioners’ meeting, March 3rd, promoting the event. Pike County Commissioners Richard Caridi and Matthew Osteberg have personally underwritten the costs of the program. Gamboni said this is the first time the Alliance sought out sponsorships for the Tour, to cover marketing expenses.
   Delaware Valley School District sent out letters to parents 5th and 8th graders to encourage attendance. Any child age 10 and older is invited, although again, a parent must accompany the child.

••• Where and when

   This year the Reality Tour is being held at the Milford Bible Church, 110 Foxcroft Drive, just off SR 2001 Milford Road just south of Milford. In past years they held it at the Presbyterian church in Milford.
   There are two dates: Thursday, March 19 and Thursday, April 23. The tour runs from 6 to 9 p.m.
   The Alliance asks for a $5 donation, but no one is denied entry if they do not gave the money, Gamboni said.
    About 35 volunteers help with the tour.
    Gamboni said that they have very good comments from parents who attended. The reaction from the students, she said, varies, depending both on their age and life experiences. Some, she said, have a difficult time with the funeral scene.
   Youth attending may not necessarily know what they are observing is only a dramatic depiction. It is up to the parents to tell them that if they choose, she said.
   The problem, however, is getting participation. Gamboni said they have not had good attendance, and are trying hard to spread the word. She has spoken at scout meetings, youth groups, PTA sessions, to name a few.

••• Why not many attend

    The reason it is so hard getting people to attend, Gamboni offered, is denial. “There is a stigma out there, ‘not my child. It’s not going to happen to my family, it is not going to happen to my child,” she said. “But drugs do not discriminate.”
    Courts do not mandate young people who are involved with the judicial system to attend, she said, because of the low attendance.
   About 22 different drugs are covered. Their focus, however, is on abuse of prescription pills, which Gamboni noted is a current trend.
    Gamboni said that the Reality Tour was begun in 2007 as a means to stem the number of young people who die in Pike County due to drug overdoses.
   A question and answer session is also included. Parents are given packets of information on local and national agencies that can help. Parental education is presented. She noted that science proves that if parents speak to their children about drugs often enough, the children are 75 percent less likely to get involved with drugs.
   “We’re trying to get the conversation started,” she said.
    To register for the Reality Tour, or for more information, visit online at www.realtytour.com or www.pikepa.org. You may also contact Jill Gamboni at 570-390-9102 or e-mail jillgamboni@yahoo.com.

••• One of several initiatives

   “This Reality Tour is another way for us to address and attack this drug issue that is going on,” Commissioner Osterberg said. “…Something has to be done, because it is totally out of control, in every community, not just here.”
   Chairman Caridi spoke of another program that has been underway for about 14 years is “Reality Check.” Every year, the there local high schools in Pike County participate by sending students on a visit to the Pike County Correctional Facility.
    Caridi, who was formerly the prison warden, said that Pike County Judge Harold Thompson approved the program when it was started. No inmates are used to engage with the kids, and no expletives are allowed to get the point across, he said. “It’s enough for them to hear the jail door slam,” he said. The students have a chance to observe the stark reality of prison life they could enter if they choose to abuse drugs.
   Osterberg encouraged parents to attend the “Parents for Prevention” group that meets monthly at the Newton Wellness Center in Milford. Parents and professionals gather to discuss the drug issue and what parents can do.
   The Board of Commissioners have also gone on record supporting establishment of a “drug court” in Pike County, to handle drug cases specifically. They stated that they are waiting for indication from the County Court that there is an interest, before the Commissioners allocate funding. Caridi said he believes the main expense would be to augment and train the team of probation officers.
    Drug courts combine intensive judicial supervision, mandatory drug testing, treatment and incentives to help offenders with substance abuse problems break the cycle of addiction and crime.
   Erin Kilpatrick, director of Catholic Social Services, spoke about the program the County recently started, bringing licensed drug and alcohol programs right into the Pike County Correctional Facility. The program, including after-treatment, continues even after the inmate is let back into society. While on probation, the program becomes part of their conditions; if they fail to attend, they are found in violation and sent back to jail.
   Catholic Social Services is presently serving about 20 inmates and 72 people at their office at the Milford Professional Park on Buist Road, Suite 202. She said there are slots available for new clients; call 570-296-1054 for information on their drug and alcohol treatment services.