FOR-NY recently had the pleasure to speak with Family Support Navigator (FSN), Ashley Dailey,as she was about to mark her first year in this brand new role and we’re delighted to share what we learned in this issue of Recovery Talk.

Ashley Dailey serves as a Family Support Navigator at Preventi on Network in Syracuse. We recently spoke with her about her role and how she came to the position.

Having worked in social services for nearly seven years, Ashley found that no matter where she worked or which populations she worked with, addiction was an ever-present issue. Whether it had to do with treatment, insurance, poverty, etc. Growing up as the daughter of a father who struggled with alcoholism in a home where “Don’t ask. Don’t Tell” was the norm, she’d always had an interest in working in the addiction field, but hadn’t quite identified her ideal role. As fate would have it, that ideal role found her.

Little more than a year ago, Ashley heard that the Prevention Network would be creating a new OASAS-funded position, that of Family Support Navigator (FSN); and while the need for that service was clear, no one was quite sure what the position would look like. Ashley knew that her personal and professional experience had prepared her as much as anyone to do this work and her instincts to her it was “that ideal role.” The folks at the Prevention Network agreed and just a year ago this month, Ashley became one of New York State’s first Family Support
Navigators (FSNs).

Upon accepting the position, Ashley hit the ground running. Her first order of business was to meet with families (initially parents) who had already been vocal about the impact addiction had on their lives to determine what they felt had been missing in terms of support for themselves and their children. She spoke with parents of children who were struggling in active addiction, parents with children currently living in recovery; and parents who had lost a child to addiction.

It became instantly clear that all of the parents she spoke with had been blindsided by their child’s addiction and quite frankly, none of them seemed to know their rights in terms of getting into treatment, insurance coverage, etc. She attended a number of support groups and community events to make sure she could speak with as many families as possible and develop an accurate picture of what families felt was lacking and what they needed.

Desperate to let the community know help was available, she created flyers to announce the availability of her free service and asked local merchants like barbershops and grocery stores to display them in their storefronts on community bulletin boards, etc. When we asked her about merchant reactions, she told us that of the fifty flyers printed for the Syracuse community and fifty others for merchants in other communities throughout the county, only two refused her.

Ashely’s marketing prowess and good old-fashioned word of mouth worked. Today, she works with between fifteen and twenty-five families each month and estimates having worked with about 240 families in this first year. When asked about the response she’s received from families, she believes that for many, it’s just knowing that there’s someone available who can guide them that does so much for their wellbeing. Her services aren’t clinical, rather they’re tailored to meet each family’s needs. She meets the family where they’re at and provides the assistance and guidance they need at the moment.

We asked about her biggest frustration in this position, Ashley replied that unfortunately, it’s with the treatment providers who often forget she exists. All too frequently, once a loved one is “dropped off” at a treatment facility, the family members are sent away without much information or support. What a difference it would make for many of them if they left with the phone number of someone who could help them navigate their way through the coming days, weeks and months!

Readers might not be surprised to know that the type of support Ashley provides is needed throughout the state. To that end, she has expanded her reach to five counties – Onondaga, Oswego, Cortland, Madison and Cayuga and is planning to announce set days and hours during which she’ll be available to meet with families in each of those counties at least twice each month beginning in March.

Furthermore, in an effort to build and strengthen a network of families supporting each other, Ashley has established a Family Alliance that meets every other month at the Prevention Network to share ideas, information and resources. Attendees represent each of the five counties she currently serves. To date, approximately twenty individuals have shown up at each meeting to discuss the various efforts they’re working on in their own counties and the group is planning to host a regional wide event in the near future.

When we asked her about some of the most common challenges parents she’s worked with are experiencing, she was quick to respond that it’s when their child doesn’t want treatment. She explained that it’s difficult to grasp the disease concept of addiction when it’s your own child struggling. It becomes so easy to think – “He doesn’t love me,” or “Why won’t she stop?” And, it’s at times like this that Ashley tries to connect the parent(s) with other parents who have lived through the very same experiences and emotions because she knows they’re the only ones who truly understand.

As an example, Ashley mentioned one mom who sent her son to a treatment center and paid (at great financial sacrifice) out of pocket for him to be there for seventy two days. Sadly, he relapsed shortly after leaving treatment. The mom couldn’t understand it and basically refused to accept it. So, she began following him, threatening to cut him off emotionally and financially, etc. Frankly, she behaved in a way that many, if not most, moms could understand; but those of us who understand the disease, know that even a mother’s desperation isn’t enough. So, Ashley did what she knew to be the one and only best thing for that mom, she connected her with another mom who had “been there” and understood those emotions and that desperation
like no one else could.

Ashley’s personal and professional experience makes her uniquely qualified to understand the importance of connecting people to the appropriate resources necessary for strengthening individuals, families, and the community and as a Family Support Navigator, she has not only found the role she was destined to play, but she has become a beacon of support for the countless moms and dads and siblings and spouses who until now, haven’t known where to turn. While Family Support Navigators are fairly new to the addiction recovery community,
their value is evident. Clearly, we need more Ashley’s and we’re delighted that Governor Cuomo an d the New York State Office of Alcoholism & Substance Abuse Services has committed
to funding 20 throughout the state; specifically, two in each of the states’ economic development regions.
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