CARTHAGE, Ill. -- What looks like a typical teen's bedroom with a bed, a desk and an assortment of stuff is hiding some secrets.
Drug paraphernalia and red flags indicating substance use are "hidden in plain sight" in a new parent education display developed by the Hancock County Addiction Coalition.
Coalition Co-Chair Maureen Crawford pointed out a water bottle that looks perfectly normal but actually offers a hiding place for a drug stash, a hairbrush that is a flask and a computer mouse that's actually a scale for weighing drugs -- all items readily available online or in convenience stores.
"We're trying to educate parents so they know what to look for," Crawford said.
"Even if you don't have teenagers, you might have grandchildren or could share information with others that might have children to make them more aware," said Cynthia Stewart, director of marketing, communications and public relations for UnityPoint Health-Memorial Hospital. "There are a lot of items in the room that most people would not give a second look to or thought to if they were just walking through their child's room."
The coalition showed off the display for the first time Wednesday afternoon as another step in battling what officials say is a drug epidemic throughout the Tri-States.
"It's beyond the opioids. It's the methamphetamine. Hands down, that is our number one issue that we are facing. With most of our major crime, you don't have to look far until you find meth," Nauvoo Police Chief Mike Boley said.
"We are just trying to do what we can to get ahead of it even though we are behind. There's no doubt we are behind, but we're trying to be proactive instead of reactive."
Plans call for taking the display and an accompanying presentation – developed with help from the Hancock County Health Department, county law enforcement and judiciary, the hospital and the Memorial Hospital Foundation -- on the road to school and community organizations targeting those age 21 and older.
"When we take this out into a school or to an adult group, what we will do is allow people an opportunity to walk through it, then we'll do a presentation, then let people walk through again," Crawford said. "It will also be out at some community events where the format will not be conducive to doing a presentation."
Hospital staff walked through the display, marveling at how easily drugs or alcohol could be hidden even in something belonging to a patient. "We would never know," said Nancy Krekel, the hospital's director of cardiopulmonary services.
"We're both grandmas. What are our grandkids growing up into? What's available out there on the streets?" respiratory therapist Darcy Swank said. "We had no clue."
The coalition presents the display and accompanying program at no charge.
"We're going to focus on Hancock County, but I can't imagine we'd say no to anybody," Crawford said.
Formerly known as the Hancock County Opioid Task Force and founded in 2016, the coalition recently changed its name to target a broader range of addictions. Its three working groups focus on prevention and education, intervention and treatment and marketing and public awareness.
Support for the coalition's work is coming through Memorial Hospital Foundation's annual campaign helps with the display along with the coalition's other efforts to put counselors into schools to provide mental health intervention, speakers and a still-developing Safe Passages program to help addicts find treatment without legal repercussions.
More information about Hidden In Plain Sight, the Hancock County Addiction Coalition and help to battle an addiction is available online at hcacil.org and by calling 573-240-0404.