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All of us need support from time to time. Whether we need to have a good cry or a good laugh, knowing we have someone to turn to in a time of crisis is a comfort many of us take for granted.
For individuals living with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), finding that help is not always easy. The same is true for those who serve as caregivers for loved ones with IDD. At The Harris Center, the IDD Intensive Needs Program is available to help provide the support and compassion that many need.
While the IDD Intensive Needs Program provides community-based supports throughout Harris County, it also has a component that focuses on providing crisis care. Implemented in 2016 as an initiative of the State of Texas and led by Clinical Team Leader Amanda Willis, LCSW-S, the three person staff is composed of master level clinicians who provide assessments, support and linkage to on-going community-based services for individuals with IDD who find themselves in a crisis.
The team receives most of its referrals from The Harris Center Crisis Line, which is available to anyone experiencing a mental health and/or IDD related crisis 24-hours per day. While the staff of the Crisis Line assist with the immediate needs of the caller, Willis and her team follow-up on referrals to their program the next business day.
According to Willis, most of the calls they receive usually come directly from caregivers who are not sure how to deal with crises involving their loved ones.
“They’re also very stressed, overwhelmed and don’t have a lot of supports and services. So it makes it very challenging,” said Willis.
Some of the scenarios that the crisis care team sees include behavioral issues such as physical and verbal aggression, property destruction, self-injury, placement issues when an individual can no longer be cared for appropriately in the home and communication problems when the individual cannot express wants or needs adequately. Another frequent scenario is when an individual with IDD also has a co-occurring mental illness that may not have been previously diagnosed or properly treated.
As a clinical psychologist who works with the IDD Intensive Needs Program, Alton Bozeman, PsyD, said that simply getting individuals with IDD properly diagnosed with a co-occurring mental illness is sometimes a challenge. This is due in part to diagnostic overshadowing, where a person’s symptoms may be wrongly attributed to an existing diagnosis rather than to a previously undiagnosed condition. The National Association for the Dually Diagnosed estimates that approximately 30-35 percent of individuals living with IDD also have a co-occurring mental illness.
“However, with our population, it tends to skew much further towards having a dual diagnosis,” said Dr. Bozeman.
The complexities involved in supporting and caring for an individual with a dual diagnosis is a large part of why The Harris Center offers the crisis component found in the IDD Intensive Needs Program.
“One of our goals at The Harris Center is to serve people with IDD through the lifespan. This means that we’re there during some of the best times and also some of the most difficult times for our consumers and their families,” said Willis.
To request assistance from the IDD Intensive Needs Program, please contact The Harris Center Crisis Line at 713-970-7000, option 1.
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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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