Having struggled with the effects of premature birth resulting in both physical disabilities and mental illness, John has lived his entire life with his parents. But now – at the age of forty-three, thanks to the help of Easter Seals, John is finally able to experience something that most people take for granted – a chance at independence.
Prior to arriving at Easter Seals one year ago, John spent more than two decades in and out of various programs. Because of his mental and physical difficulties, he suffered from anxiety and panic attacks, fear of going out into the community, had difficulty communicating and was lacking in social skills.
In the year that John spent as a participant in Easter Seals NJ’s Behavioral Health Services (BHS) Outreach progam in Warren County, he was able to overcome fear and trust issues and make tremendous improvements in his communication and social interaction skills. Easter Seals staff was then able to link him with appropriate medical specialists so he can properly manage his own health issues, and begin the process of helping him find his own apartment. “I’m now able to go out and do things which I normally would not have due to panic and fear,” John says.
“I have achieved more in this program than I have in over twenty years of seeking help from other programs. Where they failed, Easter Seals has delivered,” he added. “Easter Seals really cares and it shows. The patience, caring and understanding exhibited by Easter Seals, and especially my caseworker Sheri, has been incredible. The encouragement, positive attitudes and personal assistance provided is beyond words or measure.”
Each Easter Seals BHS case manager provides flexible, personalized outreach services designed to engage, support, and integrate individuals with mental illness into the community and facilitate their use of available resources. The Outreach services are provided predominantly in the participant’s own environment and the program goals focus on encouraging and helping people with mental illness to avoid hospitalization, learn medication management, and work toward achieving independence and stability in their own community.
“I wanted a chance at independence like everyone else,” says John. “I now have an apartment, and my parents have a home all to themselves for the first time since they got married.”
John is very much enjoying his newfound independence and has future goals to work with children and mentor, assist and advocate for others with special needs just like himself.
According to John, and so many other people living with physical and developmental disabilities, mental illness or other special needs, “we want to be accepted, understood and respected, and be an active part of society”. And that has been the goal and mission of Easter Seals New Jersey for the past 65 years – to help them achieve exactly that.
“In many ways, you have helped save my LIFE,” says John of his time in the program. “Thank you Sheri and Easter Seals.”