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PUBLISHED: 5:01 PM on Wednesday, April 23, 2008
AYFN gives support network to parents
Organization focus is on youths with neurobehavioral health issues
Alaska Youth and Family Network (AYFN) is a family-run, non-profit organization dedicated to helping youth ages 14-24 who experience neurobehavioral health issues.

Juneau has a great need for these services, according to Juneau's peer navigator Jodi Rumph.

"The statistics on how many youth are in need of behavioral health services in Alaska as a whole and southeast are startling," she said. "Suicide, drug use, and the very real consequences of detention touch many young lives in our community every day. I am the only current peer navigator in Southeast Alaska and it is because Juneau is such a hub for this region that this position was placed here."

Peer navigators like Rumph bring knowledge of available community and state programs to prospective parents. Peer navigators are parents of children with mental health, substance abuse, autism or fetal alcohol syndrome needs and are trained to assist others in need of help with their child.

"So often the frustration level of even the best educated parents, as they try and find services appropriate for their children, can be very high," Rumph says.

AFYN is designed to give the parents, grandparents, guardians, and youths themselves the skills they need to navigate the systems. As the program builds, AYFN is anticipating adding another half-time position.

"As a parent with a child that you are concerned about sometimes all of the techno babble can be overwhelming and what you really need is another parent to talk to. Peer navigators are those lifelines," Rumph said. "My vision for Juneau and the Southeast is a system where parents and youth become educated consumers and are equal partners in treatment."

Through advocacy efforts Rumph hopes to help build the infrastructures in southeast Alaska "so less of our children are forced to the lower 48 or even Anchorage for treatment."

"My goal is for those needing behavioral support that they get the support they need so they can live independent healthy lives," she said.

The application packets for services through any good agency are usually extensive. A 15-page application for behavioral support is often an industry standard, according to Rumph, who says it can be overwhelming to families and young adults already in crisis.

Peer navigators help parents understand why so much information is required and assist when needed in completing the paperwork, attending treatment meetings and providing support.

AYFN has agreements with both JYS, and CCS which are two of the behavioral health providers in Juneau. Rumph can be reached at 635-4259. Also, someone can always be reached at 1-888-770-4979. The hours of operation are flexible.

The governor will be issuing a proclamation for children's mental health week, May 4-10; additionally AFYN will be holding an open house at their new Anchorage office.

More information can be found at www.ayfn.org.

Naomi Judd can be reached at naomi.judd@capweek.com.


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