Stories of Hope | Impact Report 2019

Stories of Hope

Vanessa and Peggy

HEAD START/EARLY HEAD START | GLENDALE

Vanessa, a mother of five, and her family were homeless and living out of a van. From sleeping on a family member's couch to living in transitional housing, she worked hard to provide for her family and put the needs of her children first so they would have every opportunity to be successful in life.

At the age of 3, Vanessa's youngest son Jacob was enrolled in our Head Start program and received home-based services. Vanessa was paired with Family Child Care Specialist Peggy who visited and educated her on parenting skills, as well as games that would enhance her children's cognitive and behavioral skills. "She would come to my house once a week and help me with parenting classes and what to do like reading and how to interact with my kids," said Vanessa. Peggy not only provided Vanessa with tools to help her children, but assisted with household necessities, including food. "Peggy helped me a lot. She would get shoes, clothes, diapers, bottles, nursing bras, everything. She really goes out of her way."

Today, Vanessa's youngest daughter, Mikayla, is enrolled at Head Start where she is learning science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), as well as socio-emotional coping skills. With the help of Peggy and other Pacific Clinics Head Start teachers, Vanessa's children also received referrals to the Regional Centers for speech therapy.

Our early educational programs focus not only on the development of children and their physical and mental health, but also on the diverse and individual needs of the parents and the family.

Due to traumas early in Vanessa's life, including being physically assaulted and abused as a child, she was encouraged to take advantage of mental health services, for herself and her children. "It has been a struggle for all of us still. It has been a lot on the kids, so all of my kids and I are in therapy."

Peggy's philosophy and approach to helping the families she's assigned is to simply talk and do everything in her power to provide them with resources. She says, "I've been with Head Start for over 25 years. I understand what moms go through and that's why I want to stay in child development and mental health...in order to help others."

As children develop, grow up and enter their teen years, we continue to work with them and their families, learning together and providing community support and resources.

Like Vanessa, Zackery has overcome much adversity and receives support from Christian, a peer partner.

Zackery and Christian

TAY HOPE DROP-IN CENTER | IRWINDALE

Zackery is a typical 21-year-old. He loves listening to his favorite band, watching television and playing games like pool. However, at the tender age of 5, he walked into the bathroom to find his mother on the floor. She had passed away from a heart attack. "It has been really hard for me. I had a lot of anger because of the loss of my mom." Because he was so young, the only memories he has left of his mother are on a video of select holidays – Easter, Christmas and his birthday – as well as a few photos.

Growing up, Zackery was teased and bullied due to his learning disabilities. He recalls these moments saying, "I was bullied from middle school through high school."

Since his mother's passing, Zackery's support system consisted of his father and brother, but when he came to Pacific Clinics, he had an entire new team ready to support him.

After being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and major depression, he received therapy services at Pacific Clinics' Covina site, but shortly after was referred to the Hope Drop-in Center in Irwindale. The Drop-in Center provides a safe place for transitional aged youth, ages 16-25, who are looking for support, healing and care seven days a week.

"I love coming here. It brings me hope that I can see another day, and better myself and help others better themselves too."

A member of Zackery's support team is Peer Partner Christian. Christian can relate to Zackery in a way that not many others can.

Through music and personal experiences, Zackery and Christian bonded. With Christian having his own band and Zackery eager to learn electric guitar, their connection grew.

Today, Zackery is focusing on his future rather than the past. He is in money management classes and aspires to be an entertainer.

Not only do we provide support to our clients through our caring staff, but we provide support to family members who have loved ones struggling with mental illness.

Amy didn't know where to go or who to speak with in order to seek help for her sister, until she met Joice, a mental health therapist.

Amy and Joice

ASIAN PACIFIC FAMILY CENTER | ROSEMEAD

At a time when it seemed like no one was willing to help Amy and her little sister C.C., Mental Health Therapist Joice came into their lives.

Ever since Amy can remember, she has always been her younger sister's keeper and caretaker. When Amy was 16 years old, she moved to California.

When Amy left, C.C., age 12, felt abandoned and began to isolate. When C.C. turned 21, Amy asked her sister to move to California and live with her in hopes that C.C. could have a clean slate and turn a new leaf. While in California, C.C. improved, earning her high school diploma, an associates degree and found a good job. But C.C. continued struggling with her mental illness.

In 2018, C.C. insisted that she check in to a psychiatric hospital. Prior to her release, Amy did everything she could to find her sister help outside of the hospital. Finding a therapist who spoke Cantonese and understood how culturally appropriate treatment would benefit C.C. was tremendously hard. "Every time I spoke with someone, before I could explain why I was calling, I was met with ‘do you have private insurance?' I began to feel deflated, defeated, helpless."

As she went down the list of resources, she called Pacific Clinics and spoke with Joice. Joice's warm, calm and caring demeanor made Amy feel special and heard, a feeling she had not felt from other providers.

When Joice first met with C.C., she was experiencing severe hallucinations – people on the television were speaking to her. She was also struggling with the separation from her and her sister at a young age, as well as familial cultural challenges. "I could relate to her being separated from her sister because I was separated from my family during our immigration journey," says Joice.

As part of C.C.'s treatment, Joice explored her interests, such as coloring and cooking, and encouraged her to do activities outside the home, in addition to following a regulated medication routine. Amy exclaims, "I've never met anyone who can communicate with C.C. the way Joice can. She was open, gentle and patient."

Today, C.C. is stable. Amy enjoys morning walks every day before work with her sister. Amy says, "It's very important to support the family and those who are supporting clients because without them, it can be difficult to get clients to show up for their appointments."

"Joice is very special. She's not just a therapist, she's part of our family. I feel so fortunate to have found a person who truly listens and cares," Amy says.

Amy attributes C.C.'s improvements to Joice's work, much as Eletha has found her own champion in Meagan, a mental health worker.

Eletha and Meagan

FULL SERVICE PARTNERSHIP | SANTA FE SPRINGS

As adults, we can carry the traumas of our childhood with us like baggage. As a child and well into her adulthood, Eletha experienced and witnessed significant trauma. Her mother was murdered in front of her at the young age of 5. Shortly thereafter, she was under the care of her uncle. During her time with him, she was repeatedly molested. A year later, her father came to take her away and move to California. She had hopes of a bright future and was determined to do well in school; however, life took an unexpected turn. Her father's new wife was physically, verbally and emotionally abusive to Eletha. She would hit her and spoke ill of her deceased mother. This lasted until Eletha was 17 years old and moved out.

At the age of 25, Eletha was married and expecting her first child, but her husband did not want to be a father. At five months, he beat her so badly that she miscarried. "I was sad and depressed. I just wanted to die. I had enough."

After her divorce, she attempted suicide several times. Going in and out of psychiatric hospitals, she was not ready to accept the help that was being offered. It wasn't until after she completed a 9-month transitional program that she was connected with Pacific Clinics and met Mental Health Therapist Meagan.

When Meagan began treating Eletha, she had feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem. She also had difficulty accepting help and acknowledging she was hearing voices in her head. Initially, Eletha was diagnosed with major depressive order, but later was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.

Meagan supported Eletha by teaching her healthy coping skills, life skills and managing her emotions. Since then, Eletha has been on medication and improved significantly. "I am a person of determination. I didn't think a year ago, I would be as strong as I am now," Eletha says.

Today, Eletha rents a room, manages her own money and is very involved in Pacific Clinics' Consumer Quality Assurance Board (C-QAB), a consumer-led advisory committee that empowers clients to share feedback and affect changes that benefit those the agency serves.

As she continues to grow in her recovery, Meagan hopes that Eletha is proud of her progress, views herself as more than her trauma and remains open to new and positive relationships. Meagan states, "Her case worker and I are just the training wheels. Eletha is steering the bike."

Like Eletha, Sammie too has learned how to cope with life's hardships with the help of Linette, a peer partner who has made it easier to achieve wellness.

Sammie and Linette

WELLNESS CENTER | WEST COVINA

Sammie was living on the streets of Los Angeles, homeless and suffering from bipolar disorder. She was hospitalized after an episode and throughout her stay, various community agencies visited with her to share how they could help once she was discharged. When she left the hospital, Sammie remembered the individuals she connected with from Pacific Clinics and reached out to begin outpatient treatment.

Sammie participated in group therapy and community events to help manage her illness and worked with her treatment team. One of the members on her team was Peer Partner Linette.

Linette, like Sammie, was previously a client. After a breast cancer diagnosis in 2015, Linette thought she was suffering from depression, but after receiving mental health treatment, she was diagnosed with anxiety. Once in remission, Linette's employment specialist encouraged her to apply for the peer partner program. Peer partners are individuals with lived experience who serve as role models and mentors for our clients. They provide guidance and encourage clients to be an active participant in their recovery process through group activities, events, meetings and important interactions.

As part of Sammie's recovery, she engaged in interior decorating as a way to uplift herself, as well as others. When Linette and Sammie met, Sammie needed help enhancing the aesthetics of the main room at our West Covina site. Linette was happy to assist Sammie with her vision. "Sammie's very creative. One time, we decorated the room and she brought mermaid Barbie dolls and hung paper cranes from the ceiling for a Spring/Summer theme. When the main room is decorated it creates a warm and inviting area for clients and newcomers," says Linette.

In addition to Sammie's art and creative activities, she also joined Pacific Clinics' Consumer Quality Assurance Board (C-QAB) to vocalize her thoughts and ideas on how programs and services can continue to improve and support others.

Linette runs several activity groups that focus on art, dance, and camaraderie among women. The Pink Ladies group is a women's empowerment group that gives women an opportunity to gather, talk, share and go on field trips together.

Today, Sammie is doing well and lives independently in her own apartment. "I've grown a lot with Pacific Clinics and have been coming here for 7 years. I'm grateful for all their help and Linette's support," says Sammie.

Sammie and the others' stories are five examples of how clients and staff come together to support each other, creating a healthy community.