Gallia County Citizens for Prevention and Recovery to launch “Hidden in Plain Sight” program

The Gallia County Citizens for Prevention and Recovery (Gallia CPR), a volunteer-based organization focusing on substance abuse prevention, treatment, and recovery, is in the process of launching a program designed to assist adults in identifying common and surprising ways children may conceal illegal substances in their own homes.

Members of the coalition, consisting of law enforcement, faith leaders, court and school personnel, as well as treatment providers and members of the community, attended a training hosted by the Knox County Health Department on December 13, 2017 in order to bring the program to Gallia County and serve as guides for the exhibit.

According to Gallia-Jackson-Meigs Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (GJMADAMS) Deputy Director Angela Stowers, the group received results of a 2015-2016 Pride Survey of Knox County Schools during the training, which surveyed 1,754 students ranging from 6th grade to 12th grade on multiple topics related to substance abuse. That study showed the average age of first use for those who answered other than “never used” being 13 years old for tobacco, 13.3 years old for alcohol, and 13.9 years old for marijuana.

“These are all known as “gateway drugs”, or drugs that, if used, may lead to using other drugs such as pills or heroin. The coalition has plans to conduct surveys of local youth in order to obtain statistics specific to Gallia County. It is felt that parents and other adults will find it more meaningful if they realize the information is specific to the youth in their own community,” said Stowers. “Sadly, Gallia County’s numbers are likely not far from these. We have had children as young as 8-years-old in treatment for active substance use disorders. The coalition has a mission to try to prevent substance use and feels this program will be an asset in this effort.”

Focusing on intervention and awareness, the “Hidden in Plain Sight” exhibit is designed to educate adults on identifying everyday items, that may look innocent, but could actually be signs of substance abuse. Trained presenters will guide adults through an interactive display of a teenager’s bedroom and call attention to common signs of substance abuse, as well as educate those in attendance on ways youth abuse and conceal the abuse of different types of substances. Information to assist adults in helping their child, should they believe there to be an issue, will also be available. Of course, because many of the items displayed are everyday items, not all youth who possess those items are using them to conceal substance abuse, but being aware does open the opportunity to initiate a dialogue with youth about the dangers of substance abuse.

“One goal of the exhibit is to initiate conversations between parents, grandparents, and caregivers with their children about how at-risk behaviors can lead to opioid addiction and other substance use disorders,” said Stowers. “Early intervention is key. If parents and caregivers are able to identify signs and signals of substance abuse, it can enable them to get their children help that can make a difference, before an addiction is developed. Kids who learn about the dangers of drug use at home are less likely to use drugs. A consistent message of disapproval of drug use is needed. Kids who think their parents would disapprove of drug use are over 40 percent less likely to use. Parents must understand that addressing it once is not going to be as effective. The discussion about drugs needs to change as the youth ages. This is a primary prevention effort that is needed to help combat the epidemic we are facing.”

The ”Hidden in Plain Sight” program and exhibit is still in its planning stages and members of CPR will begin gathering the data and items needed over the next few months. It is expected the exhibit will be available in late spring. Further information will be released once the program is ready to launch.

The Gallia Citizens for Prevention and Recovery is a drug prevention coalition with the goal to be Gallia County’s first response to substance abuse prevention, treatment, and recovery.  The group is comprised of individuals representing a number of entities in our community including nonprofits, behavioral health, healthcare, schools, law enforcement, faith groups and general community members, who are concerned about substance abuse in Gallia County.  Anyone with an interest in working to address this problem is encouraged to become involved.  Information can be found on Facebook at @GCpreventionandrecovery.  Gallia CPR meetings are held the 2nd Monday of each month at noon at Holzer Medical Center.