Jass S. ranked at the top of his class during his senior year of high school, only months shy of graduating with honors. His future looked promising, but no one could have predicted how quickly things would change.
Without warning, Jass experienced the death of his father, developed mental health concerns, and started having problems with drugs and crime.
In 2007, Jass sought support at CODAC to manage the grief of losing his dad. He participated in groups that taught him skills for how to cope and release the blame that families often feel when a loved one completes suicide.
Shortly after his father’s death, Jass started hearing voices and developed paranoia. These were the first symptoms of what was later diagnosed as schizoaffective disorder, a mental health condition in which a person experiences a combination of schizophrenia symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, and mania or depression.
Jass was getting into trouble. It was difficult for him to control symptoms, which resulted in several conflicts with police and an escalating drug dependency.
“The police knew who I was,” Jass recalls. “Once, when I wasn’t on my meds, I couldn’t be controlled,” he shares, describing an altercation at a grocery store that landed him in restraints and on his way to jail for assault.
For Jass, jail is what ultimately motivated him to get his life back on track.
CODAC members involved with law enforcement receive support from a specialized team known as the Criminal Justice Team who coordinate services between CODAC, courts, and probation officers.
“Jail really helped me to calm down and put me in a place where I wanted to be,” he says. “It has now been two years since all of that, and I know that I am in a much better place now.”
Jass’ team of CODAC staff, along with his probation officer, provided structure and collaboratively developed a plan that worked.
He participated in groups such as anger management courses, which taught him the skills he needed to keep things under control.
“The classes here have really helped me… I am done being in trouble,” says Jass as he reflects on how his involvement with law enforcement has ultimately been a positive experience.
While in jail, isolated from his mom and brother, Jass was able to reflect on life and learned to value what was most important to him: family.
“If I wouldn’t have had the support of my mom and brother, I don’t know what I would have done.”
The unconditional guidance and love provided by Jass’ mother, Ruzenka, and his brother, Damir, helped him to move past very challenging times.
“When he was on probation, it was like our whole family was on probation,” says Ruzenka. “This was a very hard time for our family.”
After release from jail, Jass’ mother set firm boundaries and expectations, which included a zero-tolerance policy for drugs in their shared home.
“Even though we are tough on him, we push him because we love him,” she adds.
“If I mess up, I will get kicked out of the house,” he says jokingly.
In these past seven years, Jass has made many changes and is determined to continue improving his life.
“I left all of my old friends. I knew that I could not hang out with all of the people that I used to— it just ended in trouble.”
Jass has actively eliminated unhealthy and triggering situations from his life including poor friendships, drugs and alcohol. Currently, he is finishing courses to obtain his GED and hopes to explore career options so he can find a stable job that he is passionate about.
“CODAC has really helped me. All of the people here have taken care of me from case managers to nurses to doctors.”
“I am very proud of my son,” says Ruzenka. “It has been our family goal to put him on the right path and forget everything that has happened. We have a new beginning for him and our family now.”