*All videos are Closed Captioned on Youtube*
Recovery: one word with countless possibilities. Because there is not one definition of recovery, everyone has their own meaning and their own story.
“The Agency slogan is Transforming Lives, and so, when we think of that and we think of recovery, it means to help someone progress in finding meaning in their life. They are not merely progressing towards eliminating symptoms, but to be able to live a meaningful life past the mental health challenges that they face,” said Ana Oyarvide, Recovery Manager for the Mental Health Outpatient Services Division of The Harris Center.
While the recovery journey is unique for each individual, it is a tie that binds. Those who have lived experience in recovery from mental illness, commonly referred to as peers, offer an insight that is invaluable to those who are either just starting their process or those who find it beneficial to talk to others who understand what it is like to live with a mental illness.
This is why The Harris Center employs a number of peers and family partners, which are parents or guardians with lived experience in raising children with mental or emotional challenges, across the Agency’s programs to provide additional supports to consumers and their families. In fact, The Harris Center employs more certified peer specialists than any other local mental health authority in Texas.
“It’s not a replacement or a substitution. It’s in addition to the medication management that you may be receiving from your physician, an addition to the therapy, an addition to the skills training that your rehab clinician is providing you,” said Oyarvide. As part of its commitment to incorporating peers in the recovery process, The Harris Center maintains various partnerships and collaborations throughout the community with peer-oriented organizations that help empower individuals receiving services to become active members in the community. One of the partnerships is with Prosumers, which started eight years ago.
“Prosumers is not a group of people, it’s not a title, it’s a job description. So anybody can be a Prosumer, somebody who is being proactive in their life and giving back to others. It’s not who you are, it’s what you do,” said Janet Paleo, founder of Prosumers. Prosumers normally meets the second Saturday of the month at the main administrative building of The Harris Center located at 9401 Southwest Freeway. During the meetings, people share a meal for the first hour. Once the second hour hits, they move into the empowerment part of the meeting where the group strives to inform, educate, inspire and help people be the best they can be.
“Prosumers is a family of choice. We are a group of people who get together to support each other and at least once a month have a targeted conversation about something that will help us live life powerfully. When people walk in through the door we tell them there is no such thing as a stranger. You may feel that you’re in a new place the first meeting but by the time you leave, you are one of us. The only requirement to be a Prosumer is to walk in the door and want to have an amazing life. It’s a place where you can be comfortable just being you,” said Prosumers Executive Director Anna Gray.
Recovery is possible, and The Harris Center offers multiple opportunities for individuals living with a mental illness to support one another along the way. Anyone interested in additional information regarding peer services at The Harris Center may contact Shea Meadows at Shea.Meadows@TheHarrisCenter.org.
"Clara* was referred to Peer Services by her SAI and she has been attending peer groups daily for the past year. She came to group to learn coping skills for her schizophrenia and to socialize with her fellow group members. When I met Clara she was having schizophrenic episodes daily and she was very depressed. Clara was also self-medicating with drugs and alcohol to manage her schizophrenic symptoms. She was very good at interviewing for and getting hired at many different companies, however had difficulty keeping a job. Clara felt very lonely and was close with her family but didn’t have many friends.
What does recovery look like? When you fracture a bone, you get a cast to help it heal. Once the cast is off and you are able to return to normal activities, it is assumed that you are recovered from the fracture. For those living with mental illness, though, recovery is not as simple to define because each person’s journey is unique. The children and adolescents who visit our Southwest Family Resource Center are illustrating their individual stories of recovery in a colorful and visible way by creating recovery posters.
Carla* came to The Harris Center's Peer Re-entry Program in 2019 while she was at the Harris County Jail. She struggled with substance use and felt overwhelmed not knowing how to begin her journey to recovery. She was eager and willing to make the necessary changes, but needed help.
The blue skies and shiny green leaves dancing to the rhythm of the friendly summer breeze were the perfect background for the many smiling faces at Bayland Park.
"I have been working at the Hospital to Home program at Open Door Mission. One day I was walking around in the court yard, and a resident approached me. He had been at our Southmore program a couple of times, and he remembered me.
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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