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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.
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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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