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Anyone who has lived in Houston for a little over a week has come across people who speak a language other than English. As one of the most diverse cities of the world, Houston is home to people from all the continents, and a substantial portion of them are not fluent in English. These individuals make up a significant amount of Harris Center clientele.
For this population, professional interpretation is just as crucial as adequate mental health treatment and intellectual and developmental disability supports to improve their lives. Each language is so complex that a bilingual dictionary or online translation services are simply not enough.
David Rodriguez is one of five full-time interpreters at The Harris Center. Over two decades, he has held different roles at the Center and has served the majority of this time as an Agency interpreter. David describes his assistance to clients as "a teaching tool that will help them have the knowledge they need to make progress."
"I love what I do," David says.
While there are staff members who are certified bilingual speakers in The Harris Center clinics, Agency Interpreters support treatment teams by providing a smooth conversation between providers and clients during appointments when certified staff are not available.
"Whether a therapist, a nurse or a service coordinator, clinicians really want to help their clients," David says. "You have to be calm and explain exactly what the clinician says in a way that clients will understand. If they don't, I try to explain it in a different way."
Besides being proficient in another language, interpreters must also master a wide knowledge of medical terminology, The Harris Center programs and treatment plans of care, and its mission. They each interpret for up to eight patients per day, and travel all across Harris County: to clinics, homes, apartments and even the Harris County jail.
Working with a population with special needs requires passion and devotion. Clients of The Harris Center often have life-long serious conditions. As an interpreter, David has witnessed firsthand the need and desperation of individuals and family members. But, David believes that his service is making a difference.
"They came here because they need help," David says. "My job is to help them understand that there is hope for progress, and that they can become a family. I want them to thrive and succeed."
In addition to the five full-time interpreters, The Harris Center Rights Office also includes three part time employees. A contract with MasterWord Services also provides interpretation services in over 40 languages, including sign language.
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.
The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD received $836,243 from the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) COVID-19 Telehealth Program to enhance its telehealth service infrastructure. The FCC received funding for this program through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act. The FCC funds will enable The Harris Center to further expand access to behavioral health and intellectual and developmental disabilities services for Harris County residents via telehealth platforms.
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.
The Harris Center Psychiatric Emergency Service (PES) located at the NeuroPsychiatric Center (NPC) is one of the major public mental health emergency programs in Harris County. Started in 1999, services are available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week to anyone in Harris County experiencing some type of mental health crisis.
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.
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
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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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