Powhatan event to help adults look at risks hidden in plain sight

Detective Austin Schwartz shows Robin Pentecost some of the items that will be demonstrated at the Hidden in Plain Sight program.

POWHATAN – Local agencies are teaming up this month to put on an event designed to help adults wanting to better understand the signs of potential issues and risky behaviors in young people of all age.

Groups such as Goochland Powhatan Community Services, the Powhatan County Sheriff’s Office and Harbor Point Behavioral Health intend to present “Hidden in Plain Sight: Toddlers to Teens, Treatment, Trends, and Tactics.”

The free event will be held from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 26 at Powhatan High School, 1800 Judes Ferry Road. The program is for adults only.

The purpose of the event is to help them recognize signs of substance misuse, mental health issues, developmental problems, or emotional problems impacting youth from ages birth through 18, said Robin Pentecost, behavioral health and wellness supervisor at Goochland Powhatan Community Services.

“Hidden in Plain Sight” is an educational/awareness event for parents, social workers, clinicians, caregivers, educators, and community members who work with youth, she said.

“The whole event is showing that mental health, risky behavior, and substance abuse can be going on right under your nose,” she said.

The event will include an address by the keynote speaker, Damaris Santiago, clinical director of operations at Harbor Point. She will be followed by two sets of breakout sessions with multiple topics to choose from, Pentecost said. The program also includes a free breakfast and lunch for participants. To get an accurate count for meals, registration is required.

Breakout sessions to choose from will include a variety of topics: “Know the Signs: Mental Health and Substance Abuse Awareness in Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults”; “What is Families Anonymous?”; “The Effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences, What we Have Learned”; “Juuls, Vaping, Nicotine and Tobacco…What’s Next?”; “Kids are Weird, What is Normal for Infants and Toddlers?”; and “Rehabilitation Tools: How the Legal System Can Help.”

Detective Austin Schwartz will lead a session called “Internet and Social Media Safety” to show adults how they can find resources on how to monitor their child’s internet activity and the reasons why children are exploited online and how to prevent it.

“We are going to give you tools to recognize that there may be a problem and then we are going to show you the resources available to you to respond to that problem once it is identified,” Schwartz said.

Participants can also choose to attend the “Revive!” session, which will be a single long session offering training on how to recognize and respond to an opioid overdose emergency with the administration of naloxone. The Chesterfield and Powhatan Health Departments will be dispensing Narcan at this training for participants who complete the course.

“Hidden in Plain Sight” is a reference to an informational exhibit that will be available to participants throughout the event, said Detective Arthur Gregory with the sheriff’s office. It is an interactive drug educational program with a mock bedroom containing everyday items that can be indicators of drug use or risky behavior.

Gregory first saw the exhibit when he attended a similar event in Culpeper and said even he was surprised by how people have taken functional everyday items and adapted them to mask risky behaviors.

“Even with my years of experience in dealing with narcotics use with the sheriff’s office, there are still a lot of items out there I am not familiar with. There are items online or in local stores you can conceal items in or smoke items in,” he said. “None of these items were made for the concealment of narcotics. They were transformed into those purposes.”

Many parents or guardians will automatically say that they know their child would never engage in certain risky behaviors, Gregory said, but added, “you don’t know if it is not your child if you aren’t aware of the signs to be looking for.”

Laura McFarland may be reached at Lmcfarland@powhatantoday.com.

Recommended for you

Commenting is limited to Times-Dispatch subscribers. To sign up, click here.
If you’re already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.