Inmates, workers build educational facility for Muskingum Behavioral Health


Jessica Johnston

Ronelle Barnett sits on the bed inside the new I Spy Room trailer. The trailer was renovated by inmates and maintenance workers at Noble County Correctional Institute.

By Jessica Johnston, Reporter

A teenager’s room located in a trailer is no place for children, in fact, they’re prohibited.

Entering into the brand new, all white trailer, the interior looks similar to teenage girl’s bedroom. A cluttered desk, open dresser drawers and a neon multi-colored poster on the wall fit the typical views from within a teen’s room. But, this specific room conceals more than a few secrets.

Muskingum Behavioral Health has been conducting the I Spy program for about six or seven years, Ronelle Barnett, the head of the program and a prevention specialist with Muskingum Behavioral Health, said.

“It’s kind of always been my child,” Barnett, who has been with MBH for 18 years, said.

While the program isn’t new to the organization, the trailer that it is now housed in is. Prior to the room on wheels, Barnett and other MBH employees would transport items to set up a mock room for the program. Now, thanks to the help of some inmates, the I Spy room is on wheels.

“We initially just started with some chairs and a dresser and stuff like that we would board up in our cars and take it out,” Barnett, who works with elementary schools throughout the community, said. “So, we had this idea for the trailer for awhile… but, you know, financially it’s not always possible.”

The room is completely off limits to children and only allows for adult education. Barnett said this is because MBH doesn’t want to give kids anymore ideas than they already have. The I Spy Room is operated by giving adults a notepad and allowing them 2 minutes of complete silence to browse around the room and look for anything they might find out-of-the-ordinary, as if they were merely going into a kid’s room to get their laundry.

With the specific set up and items in the room, Barnett educates adults on indicators in a child’s room that could alert parents to drug or alcohol abuse, sexual activity, self harm behavior and eating disorders.

Due to the recognition the program received in the community, the Zanesville-Muskingum County Health Department funded the sponsorship of the actual trailer for the room.

The idea for the inside of the trailer was brought up at a meeting that both MBH CEO Steve Carrel and Noble County Correctional Institute’s Warden Tim Buchanan attended, and Buchanan mentioned that some of his maintenance men and inmates run a little workshop out of the institute. In addition to wood-working projects, the crew also does community service out of their workshop.

“They just kind of said, ‘We’re going to do what we can to make this happen for you guys because we think it’s an amazing idea,’” Barnett said of the people in the initial meeting between MBH and NCI.

A few meetings, many phone calls, lots of craftsmanship, manual labor and three months later, the finished trailer was presented back to MBH.

Barnett worked closely with Clarence Hickenbottom, “Hick,” a maintenance worker at NCI, to communicate the vision for the trailer. In order to make the program the best educational piece it could be, the trailer needed special modifications that Barnett suggested and the workers ran with.

She presented them with ideas for “hiding places” in the room, but the maintenance workers and inmates came up with their own tricks and twists to include in the educational area.

“Once he (Hick) took the project like to his crew and kind of explained, ‘this is like what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.’ They were excited about it,” Barnett said.

Although the I Spy Room has blossomed into a large, successful project, the program began years ago with a simple request; educational information for parents.

“We never had any idea that a simple thing, what we thought was so simple at that time, would take off the way it has,” Barnett said. “We just never thought it would get as big as it has which is super exciting.”

In the past, the I Spy program has been presented to schools, parent groups, churches, Job and Family Services staff, Family and Children First staff and other organizations.

Another community organization that has been instrumental in making the trailer possible is the Muskingum County EMA. The EMA has transported the trailer for MBH from the institute and to its debut event.

The trailer was finished at the beginning of June, but it debuted for the community at Secrest Auditorium during MBH Understanding Addiction event on Tuesday, Sept. 18.