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Our Stories

Marie's Story - Maternal Support Program & Vocational Services
Richard's Story - Lake Shore Vocational Services
Michelle's Story - ACT program
Nancy's Story - Lake Shore Vocational Services
Tom's Story - Lake Shore Vocational Services - Chemical Dependency
Marie's Story - The Lighthouse
David's Story - Lower West Side Counseling
Ed's Story - Abbott Corners Counseling
Mike's Story - North Collins PROS
John's Story - Linwood Community Services

Marie's Story
Maternal Support Program and Vocational Services

Marie started drinking at nine years old. She and her brothers would wait until her parents' parties would end and then drink any whiskey or beer left in bottles and glasses. In her teen years, she moved on to marijuana and prescription drugs. By her early twenties, she was addicted to crack cocaine.

She had five children of her own and her parenting was marked by absence and neglect. While she was seeking or using drugs, she would leave her children unsupervised or with her partner. As Marie's drug use progressed, her need for money did as well. She worked a variety of jobs for short periods of time, but after payday she would not return. Marie resorted to stealing to finance her drug habit. She became skilled at picking pockets - using the stolen cash and credit cards to support her drug habit. She even turned to exchanging sex for drugs. She felt worthless and said "When I looked in the mirror, I saw the image of an addict." To add to her emotional turmoil, she had a brother and a sister murdered in unrelated events.

Marie's criminal acts finally caught up with her when she was arrested in a supermarket with a purse full of stolen credit cards. Although she knew she was facing serious trouble, she recalled saying to herself, "Thank God I've been caught." She spent the next year of her life in jail.

Upon her release, Marie was motivated to turn her life around. She began treatment for her addiction at Lake Shore's Maternal Support Program. She took advantage of all services available and regularly came in for both individual and group treatment. She became sober and drug-free and regularly attended. Early on, she expressed interest in working and was linked with Lake Shore's Vocational Program. There were times when Marie doubted that anyone would ever hire her, but she felt she had to try. Marie developed a resume and learned how to interview. She practiced her interview skills in role-plays with her employment counselor. Though Marie was tentative, her vocational counselor arranged for an interview for an Activities Manger position at a local nursing home. While Marie lacked experience, the employer was impressed by how effectively she presented the skills she did have and her candor about her past.

Marie was offered the job and happily accepted. Based on her performance early on, she was promoted to Activities Director and now reports to upper management and received a pay raise. Marie currently has a management position at the nursing home where she now interviews, trains and supervises staff. She is proud that she has a bright future. She has said, "I don't just have a job, I have a real career."

Lake Shore's combination of drug treatment and employment services gave Marie the tools and opportunity to turn her life around. She continues to live a life free from drugs and alcohol, she loves her job and her family life has improved.

He recalls feeling afraid of others. "I never hurt anyone else - but I thought other people wanted to hurt me." Richard was prescribed medications to help control his schizophrenia but he wouldn't take them. He recalls getting angry at his counselor at Lake Shore's ACT program. "I know I walked out a few times all mad at my counselor." Richard reflects, "But I didn't want to take the medicine. I didn't think it would help me." Finally, in 2001 after a series of seven hospitalizations, Richard decided to listen to his Lake Shore counselor, the doctor and judge. He reflected, "The doctor told me, 'Richard, don't come back to the hospital. You don't want to be here.' My Lake Shore counselor told me that too. So I decided I better take the medicine." Although Richard's mother passed away in 1985, her encouragement to work stayed with him. Richard tried over and over to find employment. "I remember one day putting in applications at 15 places, but nobody would call me. I would get so discouraged." But through these difficult times, Richard's determination prevailed.

This past year, Richard's goal of working finally came true. His Lake Shore counselor encouraged him to enroll in the Lake Shore Vocational Program to get job training in maintenance and food service. For 6 months, he came to the program to learn new work skills. His vocational supervisor recalls Richard's good attendance and personality. "Richard was a hard worker who deserved the chance to work." Finally, that break came. The Lake Shore job developer arranged for an interview for at a local college doing janitorial work. Richard got the job and he was thrilled. "I'm happy I got this job. I work five hours a day and I make $10 an hour. I have the same routine everyday and I know what to do." When asked if the job is tough, he laughs, "The training was harder than the job!"

Richard enjoys his free time as well. He collects stuffed animals, loves going to movies and local museums -especially the Science Museum. His only complaint, "I wish they still had that big stuffed bear."

Richard has diabetes and has had to adjust his diet. He used to love Orange Pop and Root Beer, but now has to settle for the diet version. He even quit smoking several weeks ago and is proud that his health is improving.

Richard is completely independent and his counselor reflects on how well he's doing and how far he's come. "Richard is able to live in his own apartment, prepare his own meals, clean his clothes and apartment and take his medication. He is doing great! We are so proud of Richard and how far he's come." Richard chimed in, "Before I wasn't doing nothing (sic) but waiting for my SSI check. If I would have kept going that way, I would have kept going in and out of the hospital. I feel good now. I know I came a long way."
Michelle's Story

The ACT program made a major difference in the life of Michelle. Michelle was a 32-year-old African American woman who lived with her mother. She was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia, and was referred to ACT because she could not comply with outpatient treatment, had numerous hospitalizations, and, when home, would not leave her bed or bear to be alone in the house. ACT provided daily support so that Michelle's mother could attend work until Michelle's symptoms could be brought under control. She indicated that she was tormented by auditory hallucinations and had made several suicide attempts. The ACT Team developed a treatment plan that included family and individual counseling and education. Michelle's mother became part of the treatment team and was guided by the psychiatrist regularly. The rest of the team provided individual therapy encouraging Michelle and monitoring adherence to her medications. Once stabilized, Michelle stated that her goals were to earn her GED and work as a nurse's aid.

During the past year, Michelle had been regularly attending GED classes. The ACT IMPACT Team assisted Michelle in developing her vocational and educational goals, providing her with a computer and internet access, clothing, and school supplies. Michelle reports being very involved and excited about attending her classes. To further increase her integration in the community she now goes to the movies and local events like the Taste of Buffalo. Her symptoms are now in remission and she has developed insight and understanding of what her medications do for her, and has avoided a hospital stay for two years.

Nancy's Story
Lake Shore Vocational Services

Nancy's life had been one of numerous incarcerations, battles with substance abuse and mental health issues that included Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Nancy came to Lake Shore Vocational Services interested in food service and successfully completed the Food Service Training Program. With her newly acquired skills, she was offered a part-time position as a cook with a local treatment provider.

Nancy is a reliable employee who consistently does an excellent job. She has a new satisfaction in working and feels rewarded that she is able to give back to one of the communities that helped to foster her success. She earns a competitive wage along with paid holidays and vacation time. Nancy has maintained her stability and sobriety and feels proud of what she has accomplished and how far she has come.

Tom's Story
Lake Shore Vocational Services - Chemical Dependency

Tom was a heavy drug user, including frequent use of cocaine, crack and marijuana. Tom's long term drug use had left him in ill health, and created major problems in his personal life, including trouble with the law for child neglect, demonstrated anger management issues, and lost relationships. Although Tom's friends and family attempted to assist him, he ignored their requests and offers to get help, in part because he had always been able to find some success at work, which provided him with a sense of pride as well as a place for socialization and establishing relationships. Despite his drug use, Tom advanced from shift supervisor to assistant manager to manager at a local restaurant.

Eventually, Tom's drug use affected his work performance, and he found himself unemployed for some time. As his unemployment insurance was running out Tom was court mandated to get treatment at Lake Shore Behavioral Health. He attended both individual and group counseling, and was referred to Lake Shore Vocational Services for assistance in finding a job.

Initially, Tom was resistant to any job outside of management, but he eventually became more open to other opportunities. With the assistance of Lake Shore Vocational Services, Tom found and accepted a first-shift production job at $8.66 per hour. Despite facing a setback as he struggled with combined burdens of full time work, a very early shift, and a new baby, Tom worked with his Vocational Case Manager to overcome the doubts of his supervisor and to find a work schedule that better accommodated his personal obligations. Tom was then able to progress in various positions and currently is a first shift operator earning $13.50 per hour. He has two young children and has been clean since 2003.

Marie's Story
The Lighthouse

Marie was referred to the Lighthouse from Buffalo Drug Court. She was admitted with her two children, an 11-year-old boy and an infant girl. After a previously unsuccessful stay at the Lighthouse, this time Marie returned with a greater commitment to her recovery. Marie's renewed dedication was soon evident and she became a role model for the other clients. She displayed open-mindedness and a willingness to try new things. She gave honest feedback and courageously worked on the trauma issues in her life that had been repressed. During her treatment, Marie expressed that she had a life-long interest in cooking, and in the final 3 months at The Lighthouse Marie was referred by VESID to a volunteer position at a hospital as a cook's helper. Marie not only successfully completed her aftercare treatment, but she continues to develop sober support and remains active in the Lighthouse Alumni group. And Marie was not the only one to benefit from her experience - upon her admission to the Lighthouse, she had immediately expressed her apprehension about her son living with her in a gated environment. He was a quiet, withdrawn 11 year old who had prior problems in school, poor social skills, limited communication skills and problem behavior, including stealing. During the 12 month period in treatment, Marie's son joined a football team, began communicating with his mom in an appropriate manner, convinced his mother to work on her appearance and was able to tell her how proud he was of her when she did. After a time, he began to interact in a positive manner with other children at the Lighthouse and formed some friendships that continue as the families (graduates of the Lighthouse) get together for family support. After a year in treatment, the child was playing football, going on weekend visits with his father, improving in school and responding in a non-violent manner to conflict. Today, the child is on the Honor Roll at school and attends alumni meetings at the Lighthouse with his mom. He is proud of his accomplishments and always manages to come quietly up to a Lighthouse staff member and whisper, "Thank you."

David's Story
Lower West Side Counseling

David had been in mental health treatment for over ten years at Lower West Side Counseling for multiple disorders, including Bipolar Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Substance Dependence. As David achieved mental stability and began the process of service termination he considered ways in which the clinic could serve clients like himself as they entered the termination process.

With help from his counselor, David helped create a new self-help group with another peer. This group now provides peer support and helps ensure that all community supports are in place at service termination and beyond. Today, David is viewed as a mentor and role-model for clients who have had long-term care in a psychiatric clinic and are now able to function without the need for intensive levels of service.

Ed's Story
Lackawanna Counseling

Ed, a 35-year-old Hispanic male suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as the result of a gunshot wound, returned for his second episode of care in just over a year for. Ed's PTSD manifested in a number of severe symptoms, including an inability to take the bus or be around people and the need to consistently carry items to protect himself, including a bullet proof vest. All areas of Ed's life were affected by his PTSD, including medical/physical complications, 6 years of unemployment, drastically reduced social support, and reported cannabis use to manage his symptoms and anxiety.

Ed's second episode of treatment lasted for three months in which he worked hard both in and out of sessions on acquiring a variety of coping skills. Individual sessions focused on helping him understand what was happening to him and why, and to anticipate when he might experience flashbacks. As his lack of employment was affecting his self esteem Ed was subsequently linked with the Lake Shore Vocational Services. He also received brief medication management services. Ed is now employed full-time and uses the metro system regularly. Ed has made much progress in his recovery and now reports being able to go with his children and friends to Darien Lake, go shopping and generally be more comfortable around people. With medication and improved coping skills, he has stopped his use of cannabis. While he still has some symptoms, the improvement in his quality of life has been dramatic. Ed recently approached his counselor in the community with a hug and smile, saying to his friend "this is my counselor and she helped me so much!"

Mike's Story
North Collins Continuing Day Treatment

Mike was referred to North Collins Continuing Day Treatment Program from the ECMC Psychiatric Inpatient Unit in 2001, where he was diagnosed with a psychotic disorder. Prior to his hospitalization Mike had been living with his 80 year-old mother, but as she felt that she could no longer care for him he had been placed in an Adult Home.

Mike's program began by attending day treatment two days per week. As he had lived an isolated life style, he had to practice socialization skills, increase his trust in others and work at feeling comfortable in his new living and program environment. Staff supported his efforts and taught him new skills through groups such as Living Skills, Symptom Management, Communication Skills and one-to-one supportive counseling. As he learned more skills, he was able to perform more activities of daily living and cope with mental health symptoms. He also began doing chores to earn money.

In late 2004, Mike moved into his own apartment, where he remains independently caring for himself. His family and staff visit him and find his apartment clean and stocked with food. Mike is proud of his accomplishments and has increased self-confidence in being able to care for himself.

John's Story
Linwood Community Services

John is a refugee from the Ivory Coast and a student at UB. He had a history of psychotic episodes with paranoia and auditory hallucinations, but his cultural beliefs prevented him from believing he had an illness. As a result, John was failing all of his courses at UB and he had no primary care doctor to attend to his health needs.

John's psychiatrist at Linwood diagnosed him with Paranoid Schizophrenia and found medications that helped control John's symptoms. His counselor assisted John to work with the disabilities office at UB to have his grades withdrawn due to his illness. John received psycho-education regarding the basics of his illness, is now seen by a primary care doctor, and has gained insight that motivates him to take his medication on a more regular basis. John is continuing his education at UB for engineering and his grades are all A's and B's. He has been invited to join two honor societies at UB.