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Ashley George – Bringing ‘New Vision’ to Polk County

BY LEANN DILBECK –

A report released in 2016 by the U.S. Surgeon General estimated that one in seven people in this country are battling a substance addiction, and those numbers have only continued to rise. An even more astounding statistic is that approximately only one in ten addicted Americans receive treatment for their addiction due to the fragmentation in the health care system.  The report served as a national call to action and brought light to a growing epidemic in our culture. Locally, one hometown woman is standing on the front lines and helped forge much needed help to Polk County and surrounding communities to provide the necessary services to help those battling addictions.

Ashley (Holder) George has been a Polk County resident all of her life, graduating from Hatfield before its consolidation with the Mena School District. She married her husband, Paul, “young” and first received her associate’s degree from (then) Rich Mountain Community College before commuting to Texarkana to finish her bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M. As a ‘non-traditional’ student, Ashley was able to take advantage of a new program, at the time, CACREP accredited online universities, such as Capella. “I now have a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Capella that has allowed me to work as a professional counselor and LAC supervisor, and a licensed alcohol and drug abuse counselor. I currently am working on completing my PhD in psychology from Walden University with an emphasis on teaching.  I hope to eventually be able to work as a professor and share my passion for psychology and counseling with others.”

She is notably proud of a recent milestone celebrated with her husband, “We just celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary, a feat we find miraculous since we got married so young! We have two amazing children who are both in the Mena Middle School this year. Tyler is involved with sports and Ella is in band, each of them love the Mena School district and we feel very lucky for them to be growing up here.” She and Paul were able to purchase her childhood home when they first married but would choose to move to Mena, seven years ago, finding a neighborhood they adore. “We love our neighborhood and how we are in the middle of things but still quiet… it has the feeling of being in the country.”

Professionally, Ashley has always been in the trenches advocating for those battling addictions. “I have worked with people who suffer from substance abuse and addictions for all of my adult life. First, I worked as a probation and parole officer in the drug court program and then later as a mental health and substance abuse counselor.  I love being able to be a small part in watching people change their lives for the better and reach their potential in their own way.  It is so satisfying as a professional to be a part of that change process.”

Today, Ashley works as the Service Coordinator for a new detox program available at Mena Regional Health System through a company called New Vision, a program that Ashley worked passionately to bring to Mena, believing it would be a tremendous resource for those fighting addictions. “I have searched for opportunities for clients that I have worked with who needed a form of medical stabilization to help them on their road to substance abuse recovery, so when I heard that New Vision may be coming to Mena, I was absolutely thrilled!  When I reached out to the company I knew that this needed to happen in Mena, whether I was a part of it or not, but I really wanted to be involved.  I am loving getting to be a part of showcasing this service, and telling people that there is hope and a good option to get them started on their recovery.”

Ashley admits this is a bit of a stretch from her comfort zone since she has always been counseling based and not medical, “but feel so at home at MRHS that it has been a really easy transition for me… and the doctors and nurses do all the hard work!  The hospital has welcomed me and New Vision in, and made it so easy to build this service in Mena from the ground up.  I look forward to this service gaining ground and becoming known around our area as a great opportunity for withdrawal stabilization and the first step on the road to recovery.”

Ashley’s motivation is simple and pure, stopping the hurt. “As I am sure so many others in the helping professions know, it is so hard to see people hurting. I want to change their lives for them, but then it would be what I think is best and not what is best for them.  In my new position now, I am able to provide patients with options and allow them to choose what is best to suit their needs and desires for their own recovery.”

She also believes in giving back to a community she has been proud to call home her entire life, “A friend of mine introduced me to the Lioness club a few years ago and I fell instantly in love with the way that this club gives back to the community through all of our charitable donations.  The ladies of the Lioness club welcomed me in and now I am the vice president.  I look forward to our service projects every year and am so thankful to be involved in something that is so embedded in the community. Polk County is home, and if I am going to live here, then I am going to try to make a positive impact! I believe the Lioness club helps me to do just that.”

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