The Steele County Safe and Drug Free Coalition had their presentation, "What Every Parent Needs to Know" Monday evening. While there weren't a lot of people in attendance, having a smaller group made for some great discussions. Guest speaker Dorothy Chaney of CADCA, a nonprofit organization that is committed to creating safe, healthy and drug-free communities globally, facilitated many interesting discussions.

Chaney spoke about vaping, and how we just don't know how dangerous it can be. It was said numerous times, "we don't know what we don't know." That is a very good point. The example brought up was that it used to take 20 years for a cigarette to kill someone, a vape pen is much quicker, and we just don't know what is in them. Scary thought, there could be methamphetamine in the juice, and you just don't know. She did commend Owatonna on joining the Tobacco 21 movement, by becoming a city in which you cannot purchase tobacco products under the age of 21.

Most impactful was hearing from the youth that attended, including some of the members of SHOC (Students Helping Others Choose), and the great questions they had. Especially since their concern for their peers was real and visible. Nobody wants to see the youth making decisions that could negatively impact their lives, and it's been proven that the brain is not done developing until the early 20's. Decisions made at a young age could create a craving and/or addiction to nicotine, alcohol, illicit substances, that are hard to break.

Illicit substances Melissa Hall/Townsquare Media

Also at the presentation was the display, "Hidden in Plain Sight" a typical teenager's bedroom, with the various hiding places for different substances, flasks, even electronic cigarettes. Very eye-opening, there were items that felt wrong, even though they looked like normal items. Lotion bottles that have been hollowed out to become flasks, a computer mouse that doubles as an electronic scale, even a book that was hollowed out to hide a safe and who knows what inside. This wasn't put on display to scare parents, but, to make them aware of what could be hidden if there are signs.

Some items that have been confiscated from the schools Melissa Hall/Townsquare Media

This presentation was hopefully just the first of many to keep the conversations going and keep our kids safe and away from those substances that can hurt them. I plan to attend each and every one that is scheduled.