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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.





 “I never dreamed a job would exist for which a qualification is having a mental health diagnosis. My past crises and struggles have become opportunities to create and sustain relationships with peers who stay with us as Guests,” said Kim.


This voluntary residential program of The Harris Center opened in September 2016, and it provides person-centered, engaging, empowering and recovery-oriented support to Guests in crisis who, without this level of care, might require a more traditional psychiatric hospitalization. The goal of the program is simple yet innovative: to provide services in a supportive, non-judgmental setting by professional peer staff who have lived experience in recovery from mental illness.  


Focused on overall wellness, The P.E.E.R.S. for Hope House aims to address the immediate needs of individuals who find themselves experiencing an increase in symptoms and a need for additional supports but who have not yet reached a need for hospitalization.  Peer staff listen to and work with Guests individually and in small groups to create Wellness and Recovery Action Plans and to strengthen necessary coping skills so that they may return to their everyday lives better equipped to deal with their mental illness and continue working toward recovery.


The unique nature of this program was highlighted during its recent open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony.  Those in attendance had the opportunity to tour The P.E.E.R.S. for Hope House as well as hear from the peer staff and former Guests who have benefited from this and other programs of The Harris Center.  Attendees included representatives from the offices of Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, Harris County Commissioner Jack Cagle and State Representative Jessica Farrar.  Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee personally toured the house and spent time visiting with the staff and Guests.  In addition, she presented The P.E.E.R.S. for Hope House with a Congressional Certificate of Recognition in honor of its opening.


As Kim sees it, the open house was an opportunity for the community to see what she, her fellow staff members and their Guests affectionately refer to as “our house.”  “It was amazing to host people in our house last Friday,” said Kim.  “Seeing so many positive reactions during tours was very exciting for all of us, even our Guests who participated.  I feel as if most of these visitors arrived as curious and perhaps confused at who we are.  When they left our house, they had an understanding of an entirely different concept in mental health, and many expressed enthusiasm for helping us to spread the word.”


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