With help of Family Services, Irwin woman pursuing her goals

| Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

At first glance, Samantha Bozich's desire to get a driver's license and start classes at a community college this year might seem like easy enough goals to attain.

But for the Irwin woman, 24, getting to the point where she even would consider pursuing her aspirations has taken years of help from a program operated by Family Services of Western Pennsylvania.

Bozich, who said she suffers from severe anxiety and depression, has progressed to the point where she rarely “shuts down” when she meets people.

In fact, she said she now is looking forward to the next chapter in her life.

“I used to get very nervous around people and had a hard time focusing and getting things done,” Bozich said. “But that's changing because of the counseling and help I get from my caseworker.”

At 24, Bozich is “aging out,” which is the term used for clients who have reached the age in which they no longer are eligible for mental-health services that focus on children and young adults.

But Bozich's caseworker, Jessica Carns, said her client has made great strides toward becoming self-sufficient.

“There was a point where she wouldn't even leave her apartment,” Carns said. “And while depression is not something you get over, she is learning to cope and manage it.”

Carns said Bozich has learned to focus and is “very dedicated to achieving her goals.”

“She studied hard for the GED exam and driver's permit and got them both on the first try,” Carns said. “I'm confident that she will be very successful and the things she pursues in the future.”

Bozich lives on her own and volunteers regularly at a nursing home.

She recently started the process of enrolling at Westmoreland County Community College, where she wants to study to be a medical assistant.

“I love the people at the nursing home where I volunteer,” she said. “I think it would be great to work in the medical profession.”

Bozich said the bouts with depression and anxiety began when she was in middle school and grew worse.

“I had a real hard time dealing with things, both academically and socially,” she said. “I didn't understand why I was so overwhelmed by everything and had such a hard time focusing.”

She began receiving help after enrolling in a school in Greensburg that provides mental-health treatment along with academics but dropped out of the program to spend more time with her ill grandmother, who died in 2008.

Bozich said the real changes in her life began after she began working with Carns, who “is helping me prepare for life on my own.”

As Bozich works toward self-sufficiency, she offered advise to others who might be grappling with mental-health or emotional issues.

“I think it's good to ask for help,” she said. “You can't always do it on your own.”

Tony LaRussa is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or at tlarussa@tribweb.com

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