Hidden in Plain Sight is a new exhibit at the Fillmore County Fair this year. If you’re a parent, grandparent or anyone who has a young person in their life, you won’t want to miss it. The free exhibit is a mock teen bedroom that contains items that are warning signs of drug and alcohol use. Adults are allowed to walk through the exhibit with a checklist to try to identify numerous household items that may indicate substance use.
According to community member Jennifer Kimball-Olson, LADC (Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor), the exhibit provides clues from a teen’s bedroom to help parents and guardians determine whether their child might be experimenting with or using drugs or alcohol. “Addressing problem behavior early is important to preventing negative consequences of use ,including unsafe decision-making,” Kimball-Olson said.
Kimball-Olson is one of many people in Fillmore County who have been involved in making Hidden in Plain Sight a reality at the fair this year. Law enforcement, corrections, human services and community members have come together to bring the exhibit. The Fillmore County Fair Board is providing the exhibit space and helping with set-up and safe keeping of the items during the fair.
“One of the goals of Hidden in Plain Sight is to bring people together to form a coalition in Fillmore County to build a healthier environment,” Kimball-Olson explained. “We’d like to have a coalition in place to apply for a Drug-Free Community Grant. This grant would be a tremendous help with our educational efforts to raise awareness and reduce substance abuse in our county.”
Fillmore County Sheriff Tom Kaase agreed. His department has been involved with the exhibit and sees first-hand the tragic result of drug and alcohol abuse. “We’ve found through history that law enforcement isn’t going to cure the problem,” Kaase said. “We need to all work together to make everyone aware of what they can do to help. Through the exhibit, we hope to hit a large spectrum of parents, grandparents and community members to inform them of what to look for.”
“When you see some of things in the exhibit that look like regular household items, you’ll be amazed at what they really are. It’s truly an eye-opening experience,” Kimball-Olson said. She went on to say that talking to your kids about substance abuse is one of the most important things you can do. “Having honest, ongoing conversations about drugs and alcohol will help them know they can come to you before they get in trouble.”
Sheriff Kaase said, “Parents frequent the rooms of their kids so often that they become accustomed to seeing the same things. They don’t think about a can of shaving cream or a soft drink bottle being anything out of the ordinary. By having parents and others, like grandparents, come through the exhibit and identify items that could be suspicious, it will open up a conversation.”
“In our county, alcohol, tobacco and marijuana are still the most prevalent substances among teens,” Kaase said. “They are the gateway drugs that lead to the potential abuse of other drugs. Prescription drugs have also become a significant problem. We participate in the national drug take back program and encourage residents to properly dispose of their prescription drugs before they get in the hands of others.”
According to the 2016 Minnesota Student Survey on Alcohol and Marijuana use in Fillmore County, alcohol use by Fillmore County eleventh graders was higher than the state average, with 31% saying they drank in the past month compared to 25% statewide. Marijuana use was about the same as the state average, roughly 16% of eleventh graders said they used marijuana in some form during the past month in 2016.
Hidden in Plain Sight will be open during designated periods during fair week starting Wednesday, July 18 from 5-7 p.m.; Friday 5-7 p.m.; and Saturday 12-2p.m. and 5-7 p.m. People in recovery and from collaborating agencies will be on hand during exhibit hours and educational materials will be available.