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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.
“NPC is in many ways the front door of our crisis services, and for many people the front door into the professional services offered through and by The Harris Center,” said Steven B. Schnee, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of The Harris Center.
What may surprise people about the PES is that it regularly sees children and adolescents in need of help come through its doors. In fact, 760 children and adolescents were served by the PES in Fiscal Year 2016 alone.
Just like with adults, children and adolescents who arrive at the PES receive an assessment by licensed clinicians. Through the assessment, the staff is able to determine what the individual needs at that moment, whether it be seeing a doctor, transferring to an in-patient facility or receiving recommendations for treatment in the community. The staff works with the individual to “hopefully stabilize them so they can move back into their homes and back into the community,” said Daryl K. Knox, M.D., Chief Medical Officer for The Harris Center.
“Sometimes the kids can be seen and we can just get them an outpatient appointment, or sometimes they may need some intensive services like one of our hospital beds or residential space. So that determination is made during that assessment as well,” Dr. Knox added.
“We are a crisis center so most of our kids come here when the child is in a crisis,” said Vinay Kapoor, M.D., Medical Director for the Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program (CPEP). “More often when they come here, there is some risk of harm to self or others.”
The Harris Center recently renovated its child and adolescent space at the PES, making it a safer, interactive and dedicated space for its youngest consumers. The renovated space includes a quiet room with clouds painted on the ceiling, video games and other age-appropriate activities.
Barbara Dawson, M.Ed., the former Deputy Director for the CPEP Division who helped oversee the renovation, said that the intention of the PES staff is that this upgrade “provides a hopeful and recovery-oriented space for children, adolescents and their family members if they have them with them.”
The newly updated space physically has room for up to 6 children and/or adolescents at a time, but current funding limitations for staffing mean that the PES may only take 3-4 children and/or adolescents at any given time. The goal is that additional funding for staff may be found so that the PES may see more children and adolescents in need of its services in the future.
While the PES is dedicated to seeing those experiencing a mental health crisis, The Harris Center has additional programs for children and adolescents who are not in an immediate crisis but who are struggling with symptoms of mental illness.
“I think it’s important for families and the public just to realize in general, when things start with their children, it’s best to call and try to get help before it gets to a crisis. Sometimes these things can come on suddenly, but with children we know sometimes there are early warning signs that problems are going on. They can start having trouble in school, where they have never had trouble in school before, they can become withdrawn, and their behavior can change. And so at the earliest sign, parents should call, and they can always call our line and get some information on where to go before it results in a crisis,” Dr. Knox said.
Anyone experiencing a mental health crisis may call The Harris Center’s 24-hour Crisis Line at 713-970-7000, option 1. Anyone interested in receiving information on programs and services provided by The Harris Center may call 713-970-7000, option 2.
What makes a good listener? Common responses to this question include someone who is attentive, engaged, non-judgmental, helpful, knowledgeable and empathetic.
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.
The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD recently hosted an Open House and inauguration for its new PostHospitalization Crisis Residential Unit (PHCRU). Funded by the Texas 1115 Healthcare Transformation Waiver, this one-of-a-kind, cost-effective program will focus on furthering each individual’s work toward stabilization and reducing costly emergency room visits, incarceration and rapid hospital readmissions in the future.
Through The Harris Center’s partnership with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a Lifeline call in the area we cover was answered by our Crisis Line. The caller was inebriated and sitting on the railroad tracks with the intent to die.
"I received a call from a woman who was depressed and felt like no one appreciated her. She stated that her sons always responded when she requested assistance, but they never just called to check on her and say 'hello.'
"I have been working at the Hospital to Home program at Open Door Mission. One day I was walking around in the court yard, and a resident approached me. He had been at our Southmore program a couple of times, and he remembered me.
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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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