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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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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