BABY STEPS How hope spreads, even at the center of the opioid crisis


In southwest Ohio, opioid abuse is just the start of a ripple effect that washes over a community.

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Children find their parents overdosing or even dead, passing down the trauma of addiction and straining the foster care system. Even first responders and 911 dispatchers are being sent to counseling in record numbers.

But hope can have a ripple effect, too, and Kim Kleinhans is working to amplify those waves.

“I believe in the goodness of people,” Kim says. “I know people can grow and learn and change, and that’s hopeful for me.”

In the Dayton area, hope shows itself as $3 million in donations to establish Brigid’s Path, a facility exclusively dedicated to treating babies born exposed to opioids. Kim is the center’s family advocacy director.

Read more about Brigid’s Path: Two centers of hope open for opioid-exposed babies

There’s something about working with these families that calls to her, she says. “I think we’re all kind of just hurt little boys and girls inside.”

Kim came to Brigid's Path after a career as a counselor in community health agencies. It was stressful work. At Children's Services, she had five parents on her caseload die from overdoses in less than three years.

ExploreClick here for more on the special series -- Baby Steps: The littlest victims of the opioid crisis

“With the caseloads increasing, I felt like I was doing a lot of Band-Aid-ing. I didn’t feel like I was serving my clients as well as I could be,” Kim says. “It was overwhelming.”

Then she placed her first opioid-exposed infant into foster care, and hope rippled again.

She placed the baby girl with the family of Jill Kingston, who was working to build Brigid’s Path. Months of check-in visits with Kingston and her family included updates on the center’s progress. Kim was drawn to the project.

The Kingston family inspires: A family’s love shelters opioid-exposed babies — with room for moms, too

“It feels like it’s being proactive instead of reactive,” she says. “It’s supportive, and it’s empowering, and it does inspire hope for the families and for us that work with them.”

Nearly three years later, the little girl Kim brought to the Kingston home is about to become a permanent member of the family; the adoption will be final before the end of the year.

And Kim is now a permanent member of the Brigid's Path family. She sees it as a chance to help far more than just one person at a time.

“It will still be a struggle, I think, but it is hopeful,” she says.

About this story

Rare Heartland Editor Gayle S. Putrich and Video Producer Allie Caren traveled to Ohio and West Virginia to visit the only two neonatal abstinence syndrome clinics in the United States. They listened to those whose lives have been affected by the nationwide opioid epidemic and learned how families and communities are coming together to aid the most helpless victims of the crisis.

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