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Harris County now has a new resource to help keep people with mental illness out of the Harris County Jail. The new Judge Ed Emmett Mental Health Diversion Center provides law enforcement with a community-based alternative for persons with mental illness who have been picked up for low-level, non-violent offenses such as trespass. The Diversion Center celebrated its ribbon-cutting and dedication October 1, 2018 at 9 a.m.
“The opening of the Judge Ed Emmett Mental Health Diversion Center offers our community a viable and humane solution to the criminalization and inefficient detention of people with mental illness and truly embodies the spirit of relational policing,” said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo.
The center will provide an array of services that include:
“Our public safety depends on the way we utilize police and prosecutor time. Diverting the mentally ill to treatment instead of jail will help keep Harris County safer and save taxpayers millions,” said Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg of the new Judge Ed Emmett Mental Health Diversion Center.
Sometimes people with mental illness and criminal justice involvement may fall through the safety net. As Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez explains, “The Judge Ed Emmett Mental Health Diversion Center fills a gaping hole in our public service safety net, connecting those suffering from mental illness with the right resources without an unnecessary jail stay that hurts families and drains public safety resources.”
The Harris County legislative delegation has been supportive of issues related to mental health. State Senator Joan Huffman and State Representative Senfronia Thompson led the legislative efforts that created the Harris County Mental Health Jail Diversion pilot program at Judge Emmett’s office, which laid the ground work for this new programming.
According to Wayne Young, Chief Executive Officer of The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD, “Though the Harris Center now operates the Judge Ed Emmett Mental Health Diversion Center, it is truly a collaboration between community partners who are deeply committed to better serve the mental health needs of the most vulnerable residents in our community, rather than the jail.” Key partners include Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, the Harris County Commissioners Court, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, the Harris County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council Mental Health Standing Committee and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
The Diversion Center is named in honor of Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and his long-standing commitment to improving the lives of persons with mental illness. “This is a truly humbling honor. Although my name is on the building, many others worked to make this a reality. To be clear, though, this facility is dedicated to those individuals and families who deal with mental health issues in their lives,” said Judge Emmett.
HOUSTON, October 1, 2020 – The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the vulnerability of individuals who are homeless and have mental illnesses. It is not only the unhealthy conditions on the streets that make the unsheltered homeless “at-risk” to COVID-19; most suffer from underlying, chronic health conditions. An estimated 15-25% of individuals experiencing homelessness throughout Harris County and the greater Houston area suffer from severe mental health issues making it difficult for city, county and local partners to quickly assist and house them out of harm’s way. Social distancing requirements have also reduced homeless shelter capacity. These extremely acute individuals have a large impact on first responders and hospitals by routinely requiring emergency intervention. These individuals increase the risk of COVID-19 exposure to first responders and the community
The COVID-19 disaster is having a detrimental impact on the ability of homeless individuals with mental illness to find a safe place to shelter following stabilization and discharge from inpatient crisis psychiatric treatment.
Representative Garnet Coleman proposed utilizing an existing state Healthy Community Collaborations grant to enable three local organizations to provide transition shelter and supporting services for homeless people who have mental illness. The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD, UTHealth Harris County Psychiatric Center and Open Door Mission will join forces to open a 24-hour facility with 28 beds.
Every October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month raises awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates the many varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. This year’s theme is “The Right Talent, Right Now.” As part of this month’s activities, The Harris Center is highlighting our recent summer internship collaboration with the H.E.A.R.T. Program.For many individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), finding jobs out in the “real world” may not always come easy. As part of The Harris Center’s commitment to transform the lives of people with IDD, the agency recently collaborated with the H.E.A.R.T. Program to provide summer internships to individuals with IDD to allow them the opportunity to gain hands-on work experience across our agency’s various programs.
As The Harris Center’s crisis division, the Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program (CPEP) provides services to individuals in Harris County experiencing a mental health crisis. From its 24-hour Crisis Line to its internationally-recognized collaborations with law enforcement, the CPEP is constantly working to reach those who need help.
The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD, in cooperation with Harris County Probate Court 3 and the University of Houston, has received a grant from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for an Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) program for people with serious mental illness.
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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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