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It is early morning, and stepping out of the Metro bus is Sh’Clara Smith. She makes her way to the front doors of The Harris Center’s Gessner Day Program where she signs in and greets her friends ready to take on the day. As she sits, other participants gather around and they begin sharing what they did over the weekend.
As the conversations continue, Patrina Anthony, TxHmL Program Coordinator for The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD, comes in and speaks about breast cancer awareness as the individuals begin coloring breast cancer ribbons. So what exactly is this Day Program that Sh’clara has participated in for five years? The Day program, which is funded by The Texas Home Living Waiver (TxHmL), is for individuals with the diagnosis of an intellectual and/or developmental disability. Currently the program has 90 individuals enrolled.
“Day programs assist individuals in acquiring or improving self-help skills, independent living skills and socialization skills with the goal to assist them in eventually living in the community independently. The training is based on the individuals’ needs with a focus of community integration,” Lily Pan, Department Director for ICF-IID & TxHmL Services for The Harris Center, said. Sh’Clara has now finished coloring her ribbon and is walking to the laundry room with friends and Anthony. Anthony then gives them the task of folding shirts and hanging pants, something that comes in handy when an individual is working toward living independently. Sh’Clara is a pro at this task, and her recommendation is that “you have to fold the pants over your arms and let the hanger drift up and then you hang them on the bottom shelf.”
Within the Gessner Day Program, participants learn about things such as personal hygiene, healthy eating, how to prepare for job interviews, and how to maintain a job. They also learn money management skills, in part by helping at a store within the building in which individuals can buy a variety of items. Sh’Clara can often be found smiling behind the counter assisting in selling snacks. “That will be one dollar, please,” she states as she grabs the requested items. The store is only open for around 30 minutes, after which it is time for dancing! As they hear music playing down the hall, everyone rushes into the dance room to begin showing off their moves. This helps participants stay active, and it is one of Sh’Clara’s favorite part of the day. “With Sh’Clara, the one thing that helped her a lot was our choir. When she first started coming down to the choir, she would just stand to the side and she wouldn’t really participate nor would she dance. Now, she has even volunteered to want to lead a song, she’s always wanting to be in the front to dance and to show that she knows how to move with the beat and know the words to the song,” Anthony said.
Nowadays, Sh’Clara dances and sings her heart out along with her friends. Building friendships is one thing that the Day Program emphasizes so that the individuals can have a circle of support.
As the day is coming to an end, Sh’Clara makes her way out saying her goodbyes. She has to go home to prepare for the next day because thanks to the job skills learned in the program, she has a job at HEB that she loves.
That’s not the only thing she enjoys. “I really love drawing here [at the day program], I love to grow with my friends, teachers, dance teachers and job coaches because they are like family, too,” Sh’Clara said.
To find out if you or a loved one qualify for the Gessner Day Program, call The Harris Center at 713-970-0000 option 2.
Dancing, flu shots, turkey chili, learning how to use a fire extinguisher as well as bone density exams all in one day? That’s right, The Harris Center’s Wellness department hosted it’s annual Health and Wellness Fair in which employees were able to participate in different activities as well as learn about different resources community partners and vendors had to offer.
For many of us, the chance to sit down and visit with family and friends over a cup of coffee is a cherished tradition. Whether the conversation is about work, hobbies or the latest reality television show, it is a way to form and maintain connections with others.
When D. Danielle Hale, Ph.D., arrived as a new employee at The Harris Center, her first assignment was facilitating a group with male inmates at The Harris County Jail that was part of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Program. Nine years later, Dr. Hale’s list of responsibilities as the now-Lead Psychologist for the Adult Services Program of The Harris Center’s Mental Health Forensic Services Division has grown to include overseeing additional programs in the Jail and the supervision of a dozen employees. However, she continues to facilitate the same group she was first assigned in 2007. According to Dr. Hale, “That’s where my joy is, where my passion is.”
The CBT Program focuses on helping those who participate learn how to better handle everyday situations and choices, something many of these inmates may not get the chance to do otherwise. Housed together in one unit within the Jail, about twenty men are part of the CBT Program at any given time. They are referred to the program by The Harris Center staff providing mental health services in the Jail, Jail staff or they may self-refer. Participants may remain in the program for up to five months while in the Jail, and the ages of those in the program have ranged from 18 to over 60.
Making a difference in a child or adolescent’s life is not always easy, but the staff of the Mental Health Forensic Services Division at The Harris Center strives to do just that every day. Through a variety of programs, children and adolescents who are involved in the juvenile justice system in Harris County receive treatment and services that address some of the root causes that led them there in the first place.
Kim Tope is a licensed master social worker and a certified anger resolution therapist. More pertinent to her current role at The Harris Center, Kim is also a certified peer specialist who uses her own lived experience in recovery from mental illness to help those who find themselves in need of support and treatment through a one-of-a-kind program in Texas known as The P.E.E.R.S. for Hope House.
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The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD strives to provide high quality, efficient, and cost effective services so that persons with mental disabilities may live with dignity as fully functioning, participating, and contributing members of our community, regardless of their ability to pay based on a sliding scale rate schedule.
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