Sage’s army is still leading the battle against drug addiction; the mission continues after 10 years

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Thursday March 31, 2022 | 00:01


Norwin graduate Troy Jones hit rock bottom four years ago when he “died”. It happened while Jones was driving on Route 30 in Versailles North, following a dose of heroin unknowingly mixed with fentanyl, a deadly drug that dealers often add to heroin and cocaine.

“I had to be resurrected many times with Narcan,” Jones said of the day — April 29, 2018 — which was a downfall from his nine-month sobriety.

It was then that Jones, an Army veteran who served in Iraq in 2004-05, turned to a different type of army – the Sage Army.

Jones, a resident of Donora, is now a Certified Recovery Specialist with Sage’s Army, based in Hempfield, helping people manage and recover from the addiction he struggled with.

“Whatever keeps the needle out of your arm and the bottle out of your mouth, we support it,” Jones told more than 100 people who had gathered on the campus of Westmoreland County Community College near Youngwood to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Sage’s Army.

“We are 110% invested in our peers,” Jones said, referring to those seeking help through various programs.

Sage’s Army, an initiative to raise awareness of drug addiction and help those seeking recovery, was created following the overdose death of 20-year-old Sage Capozzi at a Hempfield motel. From this tragedy, her father, Carmen, founded Sage’s Army to help those plagued by drug addiction, and their families.

As he looked around a room full of more than 100 Sage Army supporters on Wednesday, Capozzi said he “never thought it would be 10 years later and the need is still there. “.

“Families always come to Sage’s army, looking for help,” Capozzi said. “Look at the stats.”

Westmoreland County saw a 30% increase in fatal drug overdoses last year, compared to 2020.

The spike may be caused, in part, by the covid-19 pandemic, when people were limited in what they could do, in addition to covid-related stress and possible job loss, Tim Phillips said , executive director of the Westmoreland Drug Overdose. Intervention force.

Phillips said they hope to work with the state Department of Health on an overdose review board to “dig into” some of the overdose cases to try to determine the causes.

Not only did drug overdose deaths increase last year, but alcohol abuse deaths increased about 27% last year, Phillips said.

Richard Jones, executive director of Sage’s Army, says they’ve made progress in tackling drug addiction, but “basically we’re still losing the battle.”

Most of these people who are in the midst of their addiction struggles are “suffering in silence,” Jones said.

“The Sage Army can help these people,” he said.

Jones had an ominous warning for any former drug addict who thinks they’ll be “cured” of their addiction once they’ve completed their time in a rehab facility. Jones knows this, because he went through 17 rehabs before staying sober.

“It’s something you never graduate from. It’s for a lifetime,” Jones said. “My obsession with keeping clean is bigger than using.”

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