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'People’s eyes need to be opened'

Zoe Greszler • May 10, 2018 at 10:00 PM

COLLINS — As the opioid epidemic continues to grow, those who get sucked into the grips of drugs are becoming younger and younger. And as the ways of the trade change, it can be hard for parents to know how to protect their children and what signs to watch for.

That was one of the motivating factors behind Western Reserve’s Hidden in Plain Sight presentation, which took place at the school Tuesday. The presentation had a typical teenager’s room set up for parents, grandparents and adult community members to walk though and try to identify potential signs of risky behavior, most of them common items that were hidden in plain sight.

Joel Marmet and Lisa Baker, drug recognition experts for the state of Ohio led the event. The pair discussed signs and symptoms and devices that could indicate drug and alcohol abuse, as well as other dangers, such as eating disorders, the chocking game, cutting, self mutilation, the dangers of caffeine and more. 

One example of a device they’ve seen gaining popularity are water bottles with hidden compartments. The Auquafina water bottle has a top and/or a bottom that screw on and off to reveal a dry center that closes off, allowing someone to store drugs, cigarettes, another liquid, such as alcohol, or anything else that could fit without raising suspicions.  

“It opens their eyes to what’s hidden and what’s out there, because they really don’t know,” Baker said.

Western Reserve second-grade teacher Gayle Kovach helped to organize the event with the school, saying it was something that community needed.

“It’s huge. As a parent, you don’t realize all the things (kids) could use,” she said.

“With everything in the news with Huron County and the drug problem, obviously it’s everywhere and we need to find out how to help them. I think parents might have their eyes opened at what they may find and see what they can help their child with before it becomes a problem.”

‘We just want to make sure we’re aware’

Marmet said there may not be many opportunities for parents to learn about the “latest trends” in drug abuse until it becomes too late. 

“There are a lot of program out there like D.A.R.E. and whatnot where kids get some education about what not to get into, but a lot of parents don’t get a lot of education,” he said.

“Sometimes they don’t really have too much of an incentive to look it up on their own until it’s too late. They’re kind of scrambling at that point, trying to get information. We’re trying to show them some of the things that are out there now. A lot of times this stuff is really evolving and it’s a lot to keep up on, so we want to help them and give them good, current information.”

He said the presentation helped several families as they realized the dangers their family was already in. 

“We’ve had lots of people come back and tell us ‘Wow, you know this helped me out. I found something small in my house, which I wouldn’t have thought anything of but because I came to your program and started looking into a little it further and noticed something that gave me the red flag.’ It allows them to have that discussion with their kids.”

Gaining that knowledge for continued discussions with their son was the main concern for Jason Gomez and Courtney Gomez when they decided to attend.

“It’s never too early to talk about it,” Jason said. “We’ve already had discussions about drugs, (suicide) and things related to those topics.”

The parents said their own personal experiences have made them more cautious when it comes to their son who is in the fifth grade. 

“We just want to make sure we’re aware of things that might happen,” Courtney added. “We also have had people close to us that have had drug issues and so we’re aware those things as well.”

“These (presentations) need held more often, especially with the things going on with drugs and those issues,” Jason said. “People’s eyes need to be opened and be taught. They need to see this type of stuff.”

‘They need direction’

Marmet said having those conversations, even if they’re difficult, is the most important step a parents could take in protecting their children.

“I think communication is a big key. I think they need to talk to their kids,” he said.

“Communicate their expectations to them. I think a lot of times parents are kind of afraid to do that, but instead of having that big elephant in the room, that’s really what kids need. They need direction. ... We just ask parents, you have to take the time to be engaged with your kids. Take the time to look over their room. you want to give them their privacy, but giving them your expectations and say ‘Hey, I might look in your room, not that I don’t trust you, but we just have to our thing here.’”

Baker encouraged families to keep all prescriptions, over-the-counter medications and even vitamins locked up and accounted for. She also recommended keeping any alcohol in the freezer.

“I always say to freeze all your alcohol. Alcohol doesn’t freeze so if they’re getting into your alcohol and topping it off with water, you’ll know because the water will freeze,” she said.

District school bus driver and local parent Tuanna Foltz said she attended the event not only as a school employee, but to be more aware of her surroundings with her 17-year-old son.

“This is very eye opening,” she said. “It’s absolutely surprising. With my son, I will defineitly be more on the alert for the things that I’ve seen. Some of it is just random things you find in your house — they could be used (for drug or alcohol abuse). I just think from an educational standpoint, it’s very eye opening. ...You can never be too cautious.”

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