wraparound youth partner | Multnomah County


Sam is originally from the small town of Kelso, Washington. Both her mother and father worked during the day, so she and her sister spent much of their time at their great grandparents' house. Sam didn't experience much adversity in her younger years; she was a happy-go-lucky child who did well in school and had many friends. However, at the age of nine, Sam's life changed forever. After experiencing some health issues, her parents took her to the doctor to see what was going on. After some routine blood work, she was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. 

At nine, Sam couldn't fully understand the depths of her diagnosis, which meant that most of the weight fell on her parents' shoulders. For the next several years, Sam struggled to come to terms with her diabetes. She felt embarrassed when she had to go to the school nurse's office for daily finger pokes and insulin shots. She didn't like talking about or even hearing others discuss her disease, and only referred to it as the "D-word." As time went on, Sam became more comfortable, but her disease became harder to manage as she started to take responsibility for her own care. By eighteen, she'd experienced multiple complications of the disease, including chronic pain in her legs. 

Soon after moving out of her parents' home, Sam began experiencing severe depression and anxiety. For several months she only got out of bed to use the bathroom and (sometimes) to eat. As her chronic pain worsened, it started to consume her life, and taking care of her diabetes seemed even more impossible. Sam turned to drug abuse and other forms of self-harm to cope. Suicidal thoughts and ideation soon became a daily struggle. At the same time, her long-time partner relapsed, which meant that addiction and hard drugs were now surrounding her. Finally, her mental health took a turn for the worse, and she attempted suicide. 

After her attempt, Sam realized that she needed to seek professional help. With effort, she quickly found a neurologist who helped her find medication to manage her chronic pain. She also started seeing a psychiatrist, who prescribed new antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, and a therapist she really connected with. The medication helped for a while until she started experiencing new symptoms, including periods of extreme agitation, anxiety, and an inability to sleep for days at a time. After a couple of months, Sam was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Finally, she was getting the help she needed and feeling like herself again.

Despite her diagnoses, Sam has been able to overcome her hardships and live a successful life. She currently lives with her partner (who is now clean), her three dogs Rocky, Sadie and Bliss, and her cat Eddie. She is working on her Masters in Social Work as well as her Masters of Art in Addiction Studies and has worked in social services for the last five years. Sam's unique experiences and desire to help others have helped her realize her true calling: working with youth who are experiencing mental and physical health obstacles. She was introduced to peer support (which has become her dream job), and eventually found Youth Era. For self-care, Sam enjoys volunteering with animals, hiking, yoga, and playing with her dogs.