ST. MARYS — Leadership Elk and Cameron County participants heard from both healthcare representatives and Elk County law enforcement officials during Wednesday’s activities.

The leadership program, an initiative of the Community Education Center, has more than 180 graduates and 20 participants this year, said CEC Executive Director Kate Brock. Participants travel to several locations to learn more about local businesses and organizations. They also have homework assignments, such as preparing a speech or vision board for the following month’s Leadership session.

Wednesday was “Health and Human Services Day.” Participants first heard from John Marasco, employee benefits sales consultant, about healthcare reform, then from George Bojalad, director of Human Resources with Penn Highlands Healthcare. They also heard from Pinecrest Manor Administrator Megan Bolden, who provided a presentation and tour of Pinecrest Manor on Johnsonburg Road.

The last stop of the day was the City of St. Marys Police Department on Erie Avenue, where participants heard from Elk County Sheriff Todd Caltagarone, Chief Tom Nicklas, Sgt. Anthony Pistner, Sgt. Mike Shaffer and K9 Nando, Gregg McManus, a detective with the Elk County District Attorney’s Office and Elk County District Attorney Tom Coppolo.

Nicklas said Leadership Elk and Cameron County participants received a variety of information regarding the investigation and prosecution of drug-related offenses in the Elk County area.

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The presentation began with Sgt. Shaffer and K9 Nando giving a demonstration.

“Sheriff Caltagarone and myself then provided information on the Pennsylvania medical marijuana law, as well as the arguments for and against the legalization of recreational marijuana,” he said.

Coppolo then gave the group a breakdown from the prosecution standpoint, discussing sentencing guidelines and sentencing of individuals based on past record.

“Detective McManus and Sgt. Pistner provided an overview of current drug trends in our area,” Nicklas said. “City of St. Marys Police Patrolman Derrick Welsh provided statistics regarding the marked increase in drug-related arrests over the past 10 years, with DA Coppolo added that many, not specifically drug-related offenses, very often have drug or alcohol use as a precipitating factor.”

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