Prevention Council, Parent Connection, Newtown Police Teaming Up For Zoom Event

Tray Ling

Just because your child or grandchild spends more time schooling from home does not make them less inclined to be experimenting with, or regularly using, drugs or alcohol. And even if you make regular sweeps of your kid’s room when they do leave it to be sure there is nothing […]

Just because your child or grandchild spends more time schooling from home does not make them less inclined to be experimenting with, or regularly using, drugs or alcohol.

And even if you make regular sweeps of your kid’s room when they do leave it to be sure there is nothing stashed in desk drawers, closets, pockets, or under the mattress, your child could still be in possession of drugs or booze. In fact, they could be storing their intoxicants of choice in plain sight.

If you are the parent or primary caregiver of a Newtown child or teen, the Newtown Prevention Council, Newtown Parent Connection, and police department want to help educate you during a free Zoom event being held at 7 pm on March 4.

This unique information session is entitled “Hidden In Plain Sight” (HIPS), and it is the second time the Prevention Council has hosted it.

HIPS is a program of the Connecticut Association of Prevention Professionals (CAPP), a statewide network of prevention advocates that identifies and spreads awareness of behavioral health trends while ensuring growth of the field and providing resources across the state.

Chelsea Preneta, MPH, CPS, the Prevention Council’s CSC program coordinator, told The Newtown Bee this week that attendees will get important insights into trends involving youth substance abuse, drug paraphernalia, and unique concealment methods young people use to keep alcohol and drugs out of sight.

“This is CAPP’s signature program, but they also hold other training that is accessible to members, like the Prevention Council on things like gambling, suicide awareness and prevention, and things along those lines,” Preneta said. “I thought this would be a great session now that children and teens are home more often than not.”

Preneta added that even if diligent parents believe their child is unexposed to, or resistant to, the temptations of alcohol and drugs, “Parents are going to need to talk to their children about these topics at some point, and that’s what this presentation is geared for.”

Those joining the session will also learn how to communicate better with young people about alcohol and drugs — as well as what to do if a problem is suspected or discovered.

CAPP membership is composed of community coalitions, behavioral health organizations, representatives of state agencies, law enforcement officers, academics, and other valuable stakeholders. The Newtown Prevention Council is among its members.

Open to adults only, the HIPS program offers a sample bedroom (or backpack) that parents, grandparents, educators, caregivers, and other adults can explore to identify hidden drug paraphernalia, and warning signs associated with drug or alcohol abuse by a teen.

Parent Connection founder Dorrie Carolan told The Newtown Bee that this session is timed perfectly with when her organization would be holding some type of community education event on the same subject — but the pandemic is making it impossible to have such a gathering in person.

“We were actually planning to hold this as an event last spring with the Prevention Council,” Carolan said. “I attended one with CAPP in Fairfield and wanted to book them. So at the last Prevention Council meeting, they decided to book this now as a virtual event, and we are partnering with them and the police department.”

Carolan said she was invited to the HIPS presentation after the Parent Connection started hosting its own support groups and prevention activities in Fairfield.

“I think parents need to know where kids might be stashing drugs or alcohol,” Carolan said. “I think it will be a great awakening for many on how kids are able to hide this stuff, and will educate parents on what they are doing.”

She said her biggest takeaway was seeing the variety of easily obtainable commercial products available specifically for camouflaging drugs and alcohol.

“You think you can go through their closet and find drugs in plastic bags or pill bottles or under the mattress, but this presentation shows a lot of things on the market that kids can buy or obtain that look like items that should be in a kid’s room, like a water bottle, pen, or Coke can,” she said.

As part of the program, prevention specialists guide attendees, explain various substance use trends, and identify signs and symptoms to watch for. Prevention specialists provide guidance for initiating conversations with teens about substance abuse as well as local resource information.

The approximately 45-minute program will be followed by plenty of time for Q&A, she added. Those who participate in the full presentation will have the option to enter into a drawing for a $50 gift card to a local business.

Six participants will be chosen to receive gift cards. To register, contact Preneta by e-mail at [email protected] by March 2.

Fake hair brushes, soft drink cans, water bottles, batteries, even hardware like large screws are just a handful of the places kids can conceal drugs and alcohol in plain sight, according to the Newtown Prevention Council and the Newtown Parent Connection. Those agencies, along with the police department, are sponsoring a virtual presentation called “Hidden In Plain Sight” to help educate parents and caregivers about these commercially available devices on March 7.

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