Agency News | The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD Receives $8.93m to Lead New Community Initiative for Mental Wellness and Resiliency
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The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD Receives $8.93m to Lead New Community Initiative for Mental Wellness and Resiliency Bookmark

 As a response to the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021, The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD (The Harris Center) is collaborating with Harris County to lead a new community wellness and resiliency program to support communities in Harris County, Texas. Healthy Minds, Healthy Communities, a locally led mental wellness and resiliency initiative, will focus on ten Harris County zip codes (i.e.,77093, 77504, 77022, 77076, 77090, 77060, 77033, 77091, 77038, 77450) that underutilize traditional mental health care and have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 as well other public health issues, such as suicide. The program aims to leverage natural and existing social support systems to create a community-led network of emotional supports and assistance. 

The basis of the program is the community-initiated care model as framed by program partner, Well Being Trust. This model moves beyond traditional mental and behavioral wellness support, such as treatment from licensed clinicians in a clinic setting, to a more integrated model of community led supports by partnering directly with the community to invest in training, education, outreach and messaging. This will allow communities to become better equipped to address behavioral health concerns and build ongoing resiliency. 


“In many cases, individuals will seek emotional support from someone they know, who lives within their community,” stated Wayne Young, chief executive officer of The Harris Center. “The evidence-based components of this initiative will provide education and training to these individuals to address a much-needed resource within our communities.” 


The program will utilize several different evidence-based approaches and strategies to support communities within Harris County. It will offer customized resources that are most impactful in their neighborhoods. 


“We will never have enough of the traditional mental health workforce to meet the nation’s demand for mental health,” said Benjamin Miller, Psy.D., president of the Well Being Trust. “Comprehensively addressing our country’s mental health and addiction needs will require a multi-faceted approach – creating pathways for care wherever need exists. Community-initiated care is an innovative approach that enhances this capacity to reach people in need by equipping those in a position to provide support with the knowledge and skills necessary to more effectively intervene. By harnessing the power and potential within communities to recognize and address the needs of those around them, community-initiated care can help improve outcomes and alleviate the burden on our traditional clinical system by expanding prevention, early intervention and supportive services in community-based settings.” 


“We can’t let mental health become another casualty of the COVID-19 crisis,” stated Lina Hidalgo, Harris County judge. “We have a unique chance right now to pull folks who are suffering in silence back from the depths of anxiety, depression and even suicide. Eliminating the stigma associated with mental health disorders will take a long time. But in the meantime we must take action.” 


“This program offers a unique opportunity for community members to recognize the early signs of those struggling with mental health challenges,” said Rodney Ellis, Harris County Precinct 1 commissioner. “The barbers, beauticians, teachers and faith-based leaders who participate in the training offered by The Harris Center will be equipped with the tools needed to identify, intervene and link community members to professional care. I see this as a way to create a more caring community in which neighbors help neighbors.” 


“We’ve had a mental health crisis in Harris County long before the emergence of COVID. As the former sheriff of Harris County, I knew this all too well,” added Adrian Garcia, Harris County Precinct 2 commissioner. “However, the pandemic has only exacerbated that critical need for access to mental health services. We’re addressing the need with this first investment of ARPA funds for this critical program for which I was a loud advocate. Empowering community leaders and families to provide help to people who are struggling is in an innovative way to save lives. It will pay off for years to come, long after these funds have been exhausted, and I’m so excited to have been a part of launching it. I’m thankful of the partnership with the Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD, along with UH and UT.” 


“Mental health is something people are hesitant to address but has become a significant issue exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” stated Harris County Precinct 3 commissioner, Tom Ramsey. “Our community desperately needs this initiative, and I'm looking forward to seeing the positive impact.” 


“I welcome programs like this that seek to better integrate friends and neighbors into an individual’s mental health support system,” said Harris County Precinct 4 commissioner, R. Jack Cagle. “Training families, friends and neighbors how to better care for each other is clearly an effective strategy to mental health care.”  


To learn more about The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD,


If you or someone you know needs professional mental or behavioral health support, you can reach The Harris Center Crisis Line at (713) 970-7000 or the Statewide COVID 19 MH Support Line at (833) 986-1919.” 






About The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD 


The Harris Center is the state-designated Local Mental Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disability (IDD) Authority serving Harris County, Texas. As the largest behavioral health and developmental disability care center in the State of Texas, The Harris Center provides a full continuum of services to 88 sites across Harris County, serving approximately 80,000 individuals annually. Learn more


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