Hubbard in Prevention to host 'The Top Secret Project'

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"The Top Secret Project," a traveling exhibit designed to help parents and professionals who work with youth to recognize potential warning signs, is coming to Park Rapids.

Hubbard in Prevention (HIP) is hosting the educational event Tuesday, Sept. 12 at the Park Rapids Area High School auditorium. A light dinner will be provided from 5 to 6 p.m. in the high school commons. Browsing of the display begins at 5:30 p.m., followed by a 90-minute presentation/explanation. The exhibit is open to adults only and there is no charge for admittance. Angela Graham, grant coordinator for the HIP Coalition, says recent surveys indicate that most Hubbard County high school students make healthy decisions when it comes to not using alcohol and other drugs. However, all kids are at risk of substance use and abuse. The Sept. 12 presentation gives parents and other adults an opportunity to learn what to watch for when it comes to substance abuse.

"Education is a very important prevention tool for adults and 'The Top Secret Project' program is a great educational opportunity for adults to help 'look past the obvious' in a teenager's domain (such as a bedroom) to learn about items that may be concerning with references to drug and alcohol use," Graham said. Looks can be deceiving. That's the message behind the unique traveling exhibit created by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.

By exploring a makeshift teen's bedroom, participants learn to identify objects that could provide critical insights about potentially risky behavior. Amidst the clutter of clothing scattered on the floor, school supplies on a desk and personal care products on a vanity, there are more than 150 items that can actually be signals that a young person could be involved in risky, harmful or even illegal activity. Following a walk through the exhibit, a presentation provides participants with insights into some of the items in the room and identifies how each can signal a warning about alcohol or other drug use, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, bullying, criminal or gang activity and other mental health concerns. And what attendees don't get from the presentation, the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation has created a website, TopSecretProject.org, with resources related to prevention, early intervention, drug trends, mental health resources and much more.

"Our motivation for launching this project was to encourage parents to take a closer look at their teenagers' rooms. Often times, signs of danger are in plain sight, but if we don't know what to look for, we can't help our kids safely navigate the teen years," said Cendee Palmer, Outreach Manager for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. "Parents will be enlightened by what they

learn through this program and will also walk away with important resources to help them not only learn about various issues, but they'll also learn what they can do to prevent and take action," Palmer added.

The event will also include information on an upcoming program Wednesday, Oct. 4 presented by the Hubbard County Opioid and Drug Awareness (H.O.P.E.) committee. The Oct. 4 educational and awareness program will feature expert discussion on opioid use and abuse in Hubbard County.