As the United States grapples with the public health crisis of opioid addiction, there is one local nonprofit organization that is working to combat addiction among adolescents and youth.
Bacon Street Youth and Family Services, more often referred to just as “Bacon Street,” is one of the few agencies in this area that provides substance use and mental health treatment services specifically for youth. It is the only agency providing a holistic approach that includes family support.
“It’s the one thing that struck me,” said one Bacon Street mother. “You hear messages directed at teens that tell them how drinking or using drugs will destroy their health or ruin their grades. No one talks about how it destroys your family.”
‘Kids will be kids’
Addiction is a serious issue, and for teens and their families, it can be devastating. Add to that the stigma surrounding alcohol and substance abuse, and the battle becomes exponentially harder.
“Sometimes you can do everything right as a parent, and it’s just not enough,” adds the Bacon Street mother. “Your child is suffering. You’re thrown into chaos and fear. This isn’t a matter of ‘kids will be kids.’ It’s a battle for your child’s life.”
The problems associated with the use and misuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs cannot be addressed in isolation. Schools, parents, religious groups, healthcare and law enforcement professionals, businesses, and community groups all have a role to play. “Everything we do at Bacon Street, from our clinical approach and prevention strategies to our advocacy and policy work, relies on collaboration within the community,” says Kim Dellinger, executive director.
Substance abuse treatment — and prevention
“In our society, we are all under a lot of daily stress. And that includes our kids,” says Dellinger. “We need to make sure that we talk with our children about how to cope with stress or, worse, trauma. There is evidence that giving our children these skills early on can help them navigate through difficult situations without turning to drugs or alcohol.”
That’s where Bacon Street’s prevention programs come in. This year, Bacon Street launched a new prevention program called “The Bridges Project” at Warhill High School.
“Bridges” combines two proven strategies for youth mental health development: a focused transition program for middle school-aged youth moving into high school paired with peer mentoring from current high school students. The yearlong program is focused on youth who often fall through the cracks, those at moderate and high risk for substance abuse or mental health disorders, and who may need additional support to succeed. Participants are selected by their school counselors. In addition, parents should know that they can always refer their own child for clinical treatment at Bacon Street.
As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Bacon Street relies on the support of the community, including funding, volunteers, and partnerships, to bring help and hope to families facing the battle of youth addiction and mental illness.
“Every counseling, prevention, and education program is offered regardless of the client’s ability to pay,” says Dellinger. “We won’t turn anyone away. The stakes are simply too high.”
Founded in 1971, Bacon Street Youth and Family Services is a private, not-for-profit organization that provides services to adolescents, young adults, and their families affected by substance use disorders and/or mental illness in Hampton, Newport News, Gloucester, Mathews, James City County, York County, the City of Williamsburg, and the City of Poquoson. To learn more about Bacon Street’s services and how you can help, visit www.baconstreet.org or call 757-253-0111.