Interview: Kimberly Dellinger

Kimberly Dellinger is the new executive director of Bacon Street Youth and Family Services, a substance abuse prevention and treatment center.  This non-profit organization serves teens and their families in Williamsburg, James City County, Upper York County and Poquoson, Virginia.

What can you tell us about Bacon Street? 

Bacon Street Youth and Family Services was established in 1971 and has been an agency in this community. Originally, we were a substance abuse prevention and treatment facility for adolescents. Although we are not currently grant-funded for prevention services, I am hoping to change that in the future. We have a strong track record, and are well respected in the community. Bacon Street is unique because the work we do is research based, supportive and centered on the family. We have excellent clinicians and staff and a dynamic board of directors. 

What are your goals as Executive Director? 

One goal is to bring prevention services back to our community; I was brought on because of my background and passion in the area. I spent eight years in the field in Vermont, and it was a great experience working with youth and helping them to make healthy choices. Right now I am reaching out to administrators at our local schools, business leaders and community members to re-engage in the work we are doing. Research shows that the longer you can help students abstain from using substances, the more likely they will not become dependent. We are currently offering Parent Support Groups and I’d like this to include opportunities for parents to come if they have questions about how to start the conversation with their children, or how to help them find out what is going on with their children and make them successful. I’m committed to creating a positive change in the community where I live and where I am raising my family.

How do you plan to accomplish your goals through prevention? 

Through parenting and education programs where we have the opportunity to raise awareness of the dangers of substance use and abuse, we want to help support adolescents in making healthy choices; to help them be successful rather than “punish” them for making a poor choice.

What are teens abusing? 

Predominantly alcohol, tobacco and marijuana.  Prescription drug use is also a current and present challenge for our youth and their families as teens are able to easily obtain drugs from their parents’ medicine cabinet. This issue is on the national radar and includes the abuse of prescription stimulants, sedatives and pain medication. We have an opportunity to be working with pharmacists and doctors to make sure children and families aren’t being overprescribed. This is just one form of how prevention can effectively change a community for the better.

What are some of the reasons teens may turn to substances? 

Peer pressure is one of the most common reasons a teen might use alcohol and/or drugs, although traditional and social media have a significant influence, particularly through the use of product placement. One effective strategy is through raising awareness with teens that they are being intentionally marketed to by the industry. The amount of alcohol, tobacco and other drug use in the media is highly detrimental to the health and well-being of youth. What adolescents see in social media and the general media does impact the way they see the world. This is a struggle that parents and families are having to combat on a daily basis.  

How can parents help? 

It is developmentally normal for adolescents to want to take risks; it helps them figure out what is acceptable and not acceptable as they grow into adulthood. Parents can help their teens find ways to ensure that the risks they are taking are healthy risks. Teens may try sailing, rock climbing or mountain biking. Others might like drama, performing as a musician, slam poetry, stand-up comedy or something else creative.  Teens could consider participating in a STEM competition if they are into math, engineering, or computer science. Teens need to find out what they are good at and take it to the next level; to challenge themselves. Parents shouldn’t miss the opportunity to talk to their children on a regular basis, particularly about drugs and alcohol. Don’t wait to have the conversation about alcohol and drugs until high school, because by then they already know a lot and not from you. Check in with your teens; get to know who their friends are and where they might be visiting. Having conversations with your kids is the best impact you will have as a parent; by finding out what is going on in their lives and what they are doing, you are showing them you care.