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Group 401

Sandra’s Story

Sandra knew, back in high school, that she wanted to help others. But she feared her family wouldn’t approve of the type of career she wanted to pursue, that they would think she wouldn’t be able to get a “good enough” job or hold onto a job. She lacked self-confidence, so she put the idea out of her head…for a while anyway.

At age 15, Sandra began treatment for what doctors labeled as “depression.” They said it was a phase she was going through, and prescribed antidepressants and tranquilizers, which Sandra took for many years. During this time, Sandra also had difficulties with drug and alcohol addiction, and was even arrested on several misdemeanor charges.

Sandra tried participating in the Vocational and Educational Services to Individuals With Disabilities program, or VESID. VESID is a state-run agency that works with disabled individuals to help them become competitively employable by offering training programs, school assistance, job assessment and work readiness programs and job placement services.

But VESID and therapy couldn’t help Sandra because her diagnosis was incorrect. Things eventually got so bad, Sandra suffered a “nervous breakdown.”

It wasn’t until she was in her early 30s – just seven years ago – that Sandra was properly diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

“I was fortunate to finally find a doctor who took the time to go through my entire medical history,” says Sandra. “He was the one who determined it was bipolar disorder, and that diagnosis changed my life.”

Once Sandra got into the proper treatment programs, she began to realize that her actions in the past had been a direct result of what was going on in her head at the time. She had had feelings of paranoia and distrust. The programs helped her to gain insight, and to look more toward the future with confidence.

She re-entered the VESID program recently, began lithium therapy and is now well on her way to becoming the person she wanted to become back in high school. But Sandra knew she had to take things one step at a time. She wasn’t ready yet to go back to school to pursue her career goals, so her counselors at VESID referred her to Horizon’s vocational services program. Sandra hadn’t worked for 10 years, and spent much of that time in and out of hospitals and programs. But she began Horizon’s vocational services program in October 2002, and completed all phases – from testing to job placement – in roughly three months. The program helped her to talk about her goals, share her experiences with others in her group and, most importantly, gave her the self-confidence and the reassurance she needed.

“In the beginning Sandra was very apprehensive, very nervous and quite unsure of herself,” says Becky Rechlin, Horizon’s coordinator of vocational services. “But she was always very motivated. She always showed up and participated actively. She’s a great role model for our program!”

“Horizon is always there for me,” says Sandra. “I am always able to call them if I need them. They were great with referrals and follow-up and have really given me the confidence I needed to pursue the career I want.”

VESID liaisons work closely with Horizon and its consumers, and referrals go back and forth between the two agencies. Horizon’s vocational services program provides varying levels of assistance to its consumers, depending on their needs and their desired level of involvement. Annually, the program places 75 people who have a history of behavioral health problems into employment.

In Sandra’s case, Horizon didn’t have to do much advocating when it came time to find a job.

“Sandra did a lot of it herself,” says Becky. “She interviewed well, she was sure of herself and she was honest with her future employer, who respected the fact that she brought up her past problems and didn’t lie or hide anything. That honesty helped Sandra get her job.”

Today, Sandra is an aide in a local elementary school, assigned to a six-year-old autistic boy. She loves working with kids, she likes having a routine and she is always surprised at how fast her day goes. “It’s hard work, but it was well worth it,” says Sandra. “These kids always say something that makes me smile, or do something that makes me feel like I am making a difference.”

Sandra says she is grateful that Horizon has stuck with her even after she completed the program, and she takes comfort in the fact that she can call them whenever a problem comes up or she has a question. And she plans to attend Horizon’s Job Support Club, which meets the second Tuesday of every month.

“We are very open here,” says Becky Rechlin. “We stay in contact after a consumer has gone through the program. We follow up with calls, and they all know they can come back anytime.” In fact, Becky said the program recently received a call from a woman Horizon had placed seven years ago. She’d been laid off and wanted to know if she could come back to the program. “Of course I told her she was welcome!” says Becky.

And as for Sandra? Well, she sees herself staying employed so she can go back to school and prepare herself to do more…perhaps some sort of counseling position where she can help others. “I know now that this is what I was meant to do, and I am so anxious to do even more!” says Sandra…now a far cry from the nervous young girl with no self-confidence who couldn’t hold a job.

Path To Recovery
The Path To Recovery includes true stories of consumers who overcame many obstacles with the help of Horizon Health Services to turn their lives around. Last names have been omitted for privacy.