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Agency News

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Prosumers- Peer Recovery in Action

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.



IDD Crisis Care- There when you need them

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.


Houston Furniture Bank- Making empty houses homes

April 6, 2017 was one of those California-weather-like days in Houston with a bright sky and breeze just right as a crowd gathered for the grand opening of the new home of the Houston Furniture Bank, a long-time partner of The Harris Center. The large new building contains an entire warehouse of furniture, a mattress recycling area, a retail outlet and the big hearts of the Houston Furniture Bank employees.


Getting to this point was no small feat. Two and a half decades of hard work, innovation and partnership have allowed the Houston Furniture Bank to serve families throughout Harris County, including quite a few consumers of The Harris Center.


The connection between the Houston Furniture Bank and The Harris Center goes back to 1992 when a housing support employee at The Harris Center, then the Mental Health Mental Retardation Authority (MHMRA) of Harris County, saw a void in consumers’ residences. There were no beds, tables, chairs, sofas or other signs that they were actually homes. That employee, Oli Mohammed, had an idea. What if the Agency found donated furniture to turn these houses into homes? With the support of the Agency’s executive director, Dr. Steven Schnee, he began what became the MHMRA of Harris County Furniture Bank. “If Dr. Schnee didn’t see the virtue in this, the furniture bank wouldn’t exist,” said Mohammed.



Integrating behavioral and medical health care

When we think about our primary health, we don’t, at times, relate it to our behavioral health and vice-versa.  As Sylvia Muzquiz- Drummond, M.D., the Medical Director for Mental Health Services at The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD, points out, it is important to recognize the connection between the two.

A day in the life of Sh’clara Smith, a Gessner Day Program participant


It is early morning, and stepping out of the Metro bus is Sh’Clara Smith. She makes her way to the front doors of The Harris Center’s Gessner Day Program where she signs in and greets her friends ready to take on the day. As she sits, other participants gather around and they begin sharing what they did over the weekend.


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