Community has another resource in fighting opioid crisis

Published 1:50 pm Friday, August 23, 2019

Approximately 68% of children in the Commonwealth of Kentucky are being raised in kinship care and that usually equates to grandparents raising their grandchildren.

Early Childhood Consultant Paula Billingsley-Koning spoke before Middlesboro City Council this week introducing programs that she is working hard to spread the word about in the community.

“I’m grateful to be here to let you guys know that I’m out here so that when your constituents come talk to you about the substance abuse problem and grandparents trying to raise their grandchildren, you can say, ‘Okay, I know where this lady is at who can come in and help you do that’,” Billingsley-Koning said.

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She explained that Cumberland River has a new position that they are trying to inform people about because they haven’t had a lot of people accessing the services.

“We’ve got to let grandparents know that you can’t parent a substance exposed child the same way you parent a child who has not been substance exposed because brain development changes due to that exposure,” she said. “This is a grant funded position for us for Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disabilities.”

Billingsley-Koning said they are looking for any pregnant female who is using substances or a parenting female who is using substances, or any caregiver trying to assist or raise any children that have been exposed to substances.

“What we want to do is get in there and wrap services around them as quickly as possible,” Billingsley-Koning explained about the program. “Everything that I do is grant funded, so I am free and the state is trying to remove any barriers to try to service this.

“I want to come in, meet with them, see what they need, and then try to provide any free referrals to that. I’m also a fully licensed therapist so, if I meet with a family and they need those services to happen in their house, then I’m going to provide those services for them either in the home or at a park, it doesn’t matter where as long as I have some privacy that we can talk about their issue so that we can connect them.”

As an agency, Billingsley-Koning explained that they are working with New Vista in Lexington and all mental health agencies across the state to create a recovery-oriented system of care and making sure that they are providing the services that the people who have substance abuse issues will choose them and use them.

“The state has also been very busy making sure that we are all trained,” she said. “So, I currently know where, across the state, all of the rehabilitation centers are that will allow pregnant ladies to be there and also parenting females and allow them to have their children with them at the rehabilitation program.”

She is also working within the county to provide some training for free.

“I’m fortunate and proud to say that recently myself and one of my counterparts trained all of our Bell-Whitley staff on Trauma Informed Care and Connect the Dots, which is a parenting/preschool curriculum,” she said. “With that we are trying to create the same discipline strategies within the home that they will see when they get to school.

She said the children will have an easier time adjusting and really the only difference would be the safety issues within the home and the school system.

Billingsley-Koning also explained that she will be doing some community presentations.

“If you see our logo on there, tell people to come,” she encouraged. “Beyond Trauma Informed Care and Connect the Dots, I’m also trying to help our community members know that each one of us have the ability to respond to the opiate crisis.”

Early Childhood Consultant (ECC) offers the opportunity to work with infants, young children, and families impacted by the opioid and other substance use disorders with a focus on infants and young children identified as having been exposed to substances in utero.

ECC’s partners include:

• Department for Community Based Services;

• Child Care Facilities;

• Preschools;

• Head Start Programs;

• SUD Treatment Facilities;

• Community Mental Health Centers;

• Faith-Based Communities;

• Community Organizations;

• Families.

If you would like more information on these services, you can contact Paula Billingsley-Koning, M.Ed. LPCC at 606-248-4949 or be sending her an e-mail to