Parents of teenagers and preteens worry about many things as their children start growing up and making decisions for themselves. Illegal drug and alcohol use frequently ranks high on that list of concerns. To help parents learn about the signs of illegal drug and alcohol abuse, and to help them keep their children away from it, the Muscatine Substance Use Impact Task Force (MSUITF) will bring the What You Don’t See training to the community next week.
Last year, UnityPoint Trinity Muscatine and the Department of Public Health partnered to complete the Health Needs Assessment, a study that looks at the health of a county and how to improve it. After completing the assessment, the two organizations presented it at a public forum, and worked with residents to determine the areas that concerned the community the most. Out of this discussion two priorities emerged, reducing substance abuse and providing more mental health services. In response to the first goal, the MSUITF formed with members from the Child Protection Center, the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Office, the Muscatine Police Department, New Horizons, and Trinity Muscatine Public Health. In particular, the group focuses on youth substance abuse, as the Iowa Youth Survey (given to students in sixth, eighth, and eleventh grade) indicates that teens and pre-teens try or currently use illegal drugs at or slightly above the average rate for children of the same age across the state.
In response to similar calls for more substance abuse awareness and treatment at the state level, the Iowa Narcotics Officers Association created the What You Don’t See program. Put on in a mobile trailer by local officers trained in the program, What You Don’t See provides a mock-up of a teenager’s bedroom that includes some often-missed signs of drug or alcohol abuse as well as hiding places for drugs and drug paraphernalia.
When the MSUITF learned about the What You Don’t See program, they felt it would provide an excellent way for them to meet their goal of educating more people about substance abuse to help them and their families avoid it.
To that end, the MSUITF reached out, and will have the What You Don’t See trailer here in Muscatine for five days in a variety of locations. Each time the group offers the presentation, community members ages eighteen and up can walk through the exhibit for free, learn about the hidden warning signs of substance abuse, and receive materials to help themselves or other members of their family avoid substance abuse.
As Jamie Cruise, New Horizons Prevention Coordinator explained it, “We hope to educate attendees on the warning signs to identify substance use and lifestyle choices before they lead to negative outcomes. It is also our hope that they learn how to intervene for a more positive outcome.” In conjunction with ongoing MSUITF local education projects, What You Don’t See will indeed help the organization do just that and positively impact the county.