Connecting families with disabilities to the resources they deserve through free-of-charge consultations and service is now possible through the College of Education & Human Development's Family Navigation Network.
The College's Nevada Center for Excellence in Disabilities (NCED) just launched the program as a way for families across the entire state to get access to the help they are entitled to.
Lex Owen an Assistant Professor at the School of Social Work at the University of Nevada, Reno, leads the Family Navigation Network along with the Nevada Center for Excellence in Disabilities Director Randall Owen, Diana Rovetti and Marcia O’Malley. The Family Navigation Network also supports three students from the School of Social Work who are completing their field placements.
When a family has a child or youth with special health care needs, the task of finding and paying for the appropriate healthcare can be more problematic than the disability itself. Finding the most efficient way through the confusing path of local healthcare systems, referrals to the most qualified programs and experts and the most efficient insurance exemptions is a time-sink and a headache.
“These families a have higher burden when it comes to healthcare,” Owen said. “They spend a lot of time at appointments trying to get things covered by insurance. The Family Navigation Network is designed to help families get through this process. That’s where the Navigation comes in; it’s there for families to navigate these complex healthcare systems and provide information and referrals for whatever they might need.”
The Family Navigation Network deals with cases across the entire spectrum of what defines a disability. Owen said the organization would be willing to help families who had family members with conditions even as mild as allergies but still more than happy to accommodate families with more significant disabilities. As is true of various programs within the Nevada Center for Excellence in Disabilities, many of the Family Navigation Network’s staff members either have a family member with a disability, like Owen, or have a disability themselves. This was done intentionally, to find staff members who not only understood the problems that families were facing but have dealt with the same issues themselves.
“This is a place to come where you can talk to other parents,” Owen said. “You can talk to other family members who have been in your shoes, who have dealt with these exact same issues that you’re going through. You are going to get empathy and understanding that you might not get somewhere else. We can offer empathy and help you find the information and service that you need.”
Although the program's primary purpose is to connect families with the services that help them the most, they won’t leave their families out to dry. Consultations can be extended over multiple sessions, and the staff at the Family Navigation Network are happy to address new needs as they arise.
“Honestly, there might be a family that just comes in for one thing, and then they’re good,” Owen said. “We also know that there are some families who also need a higher level of support; we might have a child with more complex health care needs. It’s all over the place. One of the things that we’re doing is making sure that we’re doing follow-up with the family, making sure that they do have a good outcome, that they are able to be satisfied with the healthcare that they are receiving.”
The Family Navigation Network’s services are free and available to any family with a disability. They can be contacted via the Family Navigation Network webpage, or their hotline at (833) 427-1673.