After eleven years as the Wellness Director at the Irish International Immigrant Center (IIIC), Danielle Owen, is leaving the center to concentrate upon her graduate degree program, and on counseling with the Maria Droste Counseling Services in Quincy.
The Wicklow native has worked with the IIIC offering culturally sensitive counseling & mental health support services to the Irish Immigrant/Irish American Community in MA since 2004.
“Sr. Lena took a chance in hiring me 11 years ago and I am so grateful to her that she did - I have met and worked with some of the most inspiring people you could ever hope to meet,” said Owen
In her time at the immigrant center, the counsellor alongside her team have served immigrants of all nations by providing counseling, case management, free health screenings, skill building workshops and employment networking for Home Health Aides, Carers, Child Care workers and other immigrants in caring roles.
Reflecting on her efforts, Owen said, “My 11 years here has allowed me to become a better counselor and that is for many reasons; the incredible trust and willingness of all those I have served in counseling and case management as well as the amazing team here at the center and the passionate outreach partners with whom we have worked.”
During this period, the counsellor has worked in residential substance abuse treatment as well as outpatient community alcohol services, providing substance abuse counseling, groups, outreach and community education.
Owen, humbly says “If I am any good as a social worker specializing in addictions, it is because of the people I have been honored to meet and work alongside. These people have taught me far more than I could ever offer them and I will be forever grateful for that.”
With a background in supporting troubled youth and traumatized adults, addressing mental health, families affected by addiction, domestic violence and health access &literacy issues, her recent work has found her increasingly addressing the suicide prevention needs of all age groups in the Irish immigrant community as well as other immigrant communities, through community gatekeeper trainings like QPR.
After over a decade of serving the Greater Boston community, Owen, recalls one particular moment in her career that stands out a little above the rest. It happened on a particular chilly October morning in Boston only a year ago.
She said, “I have had so many wonderful moments but really think the moment that stood out for me was the morning of our first "Together For Hope" walk, when people from the community - old friends and lots and lots of new faces - all came together for the first time as a community in response to the concerns everyone had around suicide prevention.”
Proudly she said, “The message was so clear on that bright, slightly chilly October morning; The Irish in Boston do care about those who are not feeling ok, said very clearly "it's ok not to feel ok" and that there is help and we support you”
“Historically [the Irish] we keep difficult challenges, like suicide thoughts and substance use issues, to ourselves or within our families but that morning for me was the start of a change and I was honored to be a part of the community that day,” she further remarked.
Owen is leaving her role as Director of Wellness at the IIIC to pursue a Masters in Social Work but will continue to provide counseling with the Maria Droste Counseling Services in Quincy.
Owen reflected, "I feel in many ways that I have "grown up" here with the IIIC. I have learned so much and the irony is that this learning has led me back to college - where all my experiences have allowed my graduate studies to really come alive.”
On a final note, she said “There is still a lot to do and my departure certainly does not mean the "job is done". Deirdre McCann and our new Wellness team have some great events and ideas for services to come and will continue to support the most vulnerable in our community. I know that the Irish in Boston will embrace Dee and the team as they have me for the last 11 years."
Matters of Substance - Ten Years On
By Danielle Owen
The Irish International Immigrant Center's substance abuse services were established in 2004 as a way to offer direct, timely, and culturally appropriate counseling and case management to individuals, couples, and families struggling with the impact alcohol and/or drugs were having on their lives. As a legal immigration center, our key concern was seeing so many who were experiencing serious immigration consequences because of their alcohol/drug use. We frequently share Immigration Q&A articles about how having charges, like Driving under the influence, can seriously affect our citizenship hopes/goals, as a Legal Permanent resident (Green Card holder). If we are here undocumented, we are at even further risk of major consequences if we misuse alcohol or drugs. The immigration laws that direct policy in the US have not changed in the 10 years our service has been in operation, as repeated efforts for comprehensive immigration reform still have not come to fruition.
As immigrants (both undocumented and LPRs) we need to realize how vulnerable we are to committing immigration violations when we, or someone we live with, misuses or abuses alcohol and drugs. If we go to a football match, pub, wedding, or party, we may find ourselves drinking heavily and then wind up getting involved in a row/fight or decide we are ok to drive home when we really are not. We could find ourselves charged with Drunk and Disorderly, Assault and Battery or driving while under the influence. Even if we get a caution under criminal law, we are vulnerable, under immigration law, to removal from the United States. We never think it will happen to us, but it does!
The way we understand alcohol/drug use disorders and addiction is changing week after week as the science shows how repeated use actually changes the way the brain looks and functions. Some people can use alcohol and recreational or prescription drugs without ever experiencing negative consequences or addiction. For others, substance use can cause problems at school, work, and home, and in relationships.
We have seen the most popular drugs of use in our Boston community (alcohol, cocaine and marijuana) now also include opiates like Oxycodone, for some leading to Heroin use. For all our progress in education, there is still so much that needs to be done to prevent our loved ones from losing their lives to addiction, overdose or even suicide. We here at the IIIC have served thousands of individuals and hundreds of families, guiding with support and referrals to find their own tools of recovery and healing. Our work offers an opportunity to re-discover the innate potential that all immigrants have, to achieve the life they dreamed of when they left Ireland.
We here at the IIIC are very proud of the service we continue to offer and believe the IIIC is in a stronger position now than we were in 2004. We support immigrants to overcome addiction, behavioral health challenges like depression, anxiety, and suicide ideation as well as address the situational concerns that can generate these problems: intimate partner violence, un/underemployment, homelessness, and health care access. We have created supports, contacts, and practical tools to find hope, no matter what brings you to the door - in confidence and without judgment. One of the participants at our recent Family Healing group series shared the following feedback on their experience: "I loved the workshops. Thank you for giving me hope."
Please do not struggle alone! Contact Deirdre on 617-542-7654 ext: 32 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let us help you live the life you want!
Slán leat Danielle!