Glad to be Giving Back: Dalana Smith brings lived experience to job


LIFTTT IL Specialist Dalana Smith (at far right) with her family (from left): daughter Zuri, husband Jerry, daughter Breylie, brother Jase, son Bristyn and their two dogs ,Ruger and Bella.

LIFTT IL Specialist Dalana Smith (at far right) with her family (from left): daughter Zuri, husband Jerry, daughter Breylie, brother Jase, son Bristyn and their two dogs, Ruger and Bella.

LIFTT Independent Living specialist Dalana Smith does not mince her words when describing the arc her life has taken in the past few years as she talks about going from the depths of addiction towards sobriety and embracing her role as wife, mom, sister, and as part of LIFTT’s team.  “I was putting a lot of bad out into the world, and I am so grateful to be at LIFTT and giving back after spending so much time taking from others,” she says.

Struggling with substance use as a teenager, Dalana dropped out of Dawson County High School before graduating from the Trapper Creek Job Corps in Darby in 2008. Returning to Glendive, Dalana stabilized somewhat until, after giving birth to her son Bristyn in 2013, She found herself facing postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression is a mental health disability that, according to the National Institutes of Health, affects between 10-20% of people who give birth. Characteristics of Postpartum depression include long-lasting, intense feelings of sadness, despair, anxiety, and irritability during the first year after giving birth. When these feelings combine with the new and sudden responsibility of caring for a child, it can be overwhelming for the new mother.

Dalana soon found herself retreating into old habits to cope and soon found that the tiger she set out to tame had, as it has for untold millions before and since, tamed her. “I fell into a dark place and couldn’t find a way out,” she said. Bristyn was soon placed in the care of extended family members as Dalana sorted her life out. After giving birth to daughter Breylie in January 2018, Dalana knew that change was needed, and soon. “Becoming pregnant with my daughter was kind of a wake-up call that I needed to do something different,” Soon, Dalana found herself in a treatment program under the auspices of the 7th Judicial District Adult Treatment Court, graduating in December 2018.

Today, Dalana has married her long-time partner Jerry, and they welcomed Bristyn back in 2022. They are raising him alongside Breylie and another little sister, Zuri. The couple has also taken in Dalana’s teenage brother, Jase. “I live for my kids. They are what keep my feet grounded.”  Since coming to LIFTT in 2022, Dalana has found her lived experience and the ability to share it with consumers to be key in forming the connection that is vital in IL specialists’ work.

“Every day here at the office, we have consumers come in who are dealing with addiction, depression, and/or other disabilities on top of the everyday struggles we all have, and by talking with them about my experiences and showing them that whatever they are going through things aren’t completely stacked against them, I hope they can feel good that I can work alongside them in figuring things out.”

About Living Independently for Today & Tomorrow (LIFTT): LIFTT is a Montana 501(c)3 corporation organized as a Center for Independent Living (CIL). With team members based in Billings and Glendive, LIFTT provides people with disabilities with programs and services that help empower them to break down the physical, bureaucratic, and cultural barriers that prevent them from being fully independent participants in their lives and communities throughout 18 counties in southeastern and southcentral Montana: Big Horn, Carbon, Carter, Custer, Dawson, Fallon, Garfield, Golden Valley, McCone, Musselshell, Powder River, Prairie, Richland, Stillwater, Wibaux, and Yellowstone. For more information, please visit or download our mobile app on Apple or Google Play.

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