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Today's Family Magazine

Hidden In Plain Sight

Mar 28, 2017 11:22AM ● By Today's Family

The Hidden Plain Sight program features an interactive exhibit that is designed to resemble a teenager’s room. In that room will be more than 150 items that may indicate dangerous and illegal activity, such as substance abuse, underage drinking, and more.

By Deanna Adams

We’ve all heard of the overwhelming increase in teen deaths in northeast Ohio—and throughout the country—due to the opioids/heroin epidemic.  But parents may be shocked at the number of other, seemingly harmless, items in their homes that can harm, even kill, their kids.

Not only that, but a teenager often hides their secrets right under their parent’s nose.
Did you know that teens often stash their drugs and paraphernalia in places they know parents won’t likely search?  After all, who would think to look inside DVD cases, in their shoes, inside the battery compartment of their radio, or between their mattresses?

And that water bottle you see in their room?  It may actually be filled with vodka instead.  Those innocent looking Gummy Bears, too, might be soaked in vodka for your teenager’s snacking pleasure.  Yes, teens can be more creative than many adults think.

And while most teenagers think pot “isn’t a big deal,” statistics show that half of those who begin smoking marijuana often move on to drugs that will give them a greater high.

For all these reasons, Marcie Mason decided to make parents and other adults more aware of hidden and unexpected dangers to children and teens.  A licensed social worker and youth services worker with the Copley Police Department Juvenile Offender Division, Mason approached her coworkers after seeing a similar program that opened up her eyes.

“I got the initial idea after attending a parent awareness presentation in Brecksville-Broadview Hts.,” Mason recalls.  “I was just blown away.  It was so fascinating to me, and I wanted to do something similar.  We now do the same for other departments, sort of in the tradition of paying it forward.”

The program is, appropriately, called “Hidden in Plain Sight,” and Mason and Copley detective, Paul Webb, will be bringing their knowledge to Mentor on Wednesday, April 12, 2017, beginning at 6 p.m..  The program is free and will take place at the Mentor High School Fine Arts Center.  All parents and other adults are encouraged to attend.  Due to the nature of the materials presented, children and teens will not be allowed.  The program opens with an interactive exhibit that is designed to resemble a teenager’s room.  In that room will be more than 150 items that may indicate dangerous and illegal activity, such as substance abuse, underage drinking, and more.  There will also be a power-point presentation that includes vital information about prescription drugs and heroin use.

“Whereas DARE is to educate children and give them the tools to make good decisions and say no to things that can be harmful, this program is about arming parents with knowledge of what they are looking at, and whether it’s an indication of risky behavior,” says Webb, a former DARE officer.

He also has an important message for parents who feel they are invading their children’s privacy, or feel guilty for “snooping.”

“We hear that a lot and we remind parents that when a child is charged with a delinquency issue, the parents have to come and answer to that in juvenile court.  They need to be fully aware that they are wholly responsible for their kids until age 18.  So if the child has something in their room that is potentially dangerous or illegal, that’s going to come back on them.  Children do not have privacy rights, the parents are responsible for them.  And when the kids turn 18, parents need to tell them that if they don’t like the room searches, or rules of the house, they are free to move out.”

It’s all about saving lives.

“We talk about inhalants, too, which is very unique because the younger ones are more likely to use those.  As kids get older, they realize how very dangerous they are.”  Webb cites a recent example.  “There was a young lady, 14, I believe, who was inhaling a can of computer keyboard cleaner, and actually quit breathing. Luckily, her adult brother found her and, through a 911 dispatcher, got her breathing again.  That’s just one example of a typical household item being abused in an effort to get high.”

Webb says that while they don’t focus much on cell phone monitoring, “I do remind parents that they own that phone, and if there’s an app on the phone they’re not familiar with, they need to figure it out.  Plus, there are apps for parents that are very helpful.”

He and Mason say they usually get a good crowd at their event, and are grateful that parents take the time to attend.  “It’s great to hear from parents after our presentation who tell us how much it has helped educate them,” Mason says.  “We’ll get emails and cards thanking us for making them more aware.

“For example, after one of our presentations, a parent searched his child’s room and discovered a DVD case filled with empty packets of a medication called Daytrana, a patch used to treat ADHD.  His son didn’t have ADHD.  He was using it to get high.” 

Webb adds, “Like that old saying, if you can help just one person, you’re on the right path.  It’s what keeps us doing this program.”

For more information, contact Mason at [email protected] or contact Mentor's Officer Skelly at 440-255-2818 or email, [email protected].