MHMRA of Harris County - Annual Report FY 2012 2012 - Page 3

Investing in Healthy Minds and a Healthy Community F elix Martinez believes that one big reason for his being alive today is to help people. He is the chairman of the Consumer Advisory Council at MHMRA. He offices at MHMRA’s Southwest Mental Health Outpatient Clinic, where he provides peer advising and support to other consumers. Felix himself receives services through the Southwest clinic, and he uses his life experience to relate to the people he helps. He has battled schizo-affective bipolar disorder, which can cause him to hear voices that other people can’t hear, since 1989. His condition has led to multiple suicide attempts and dangerous encounters with law enforcement. He has come close to death more than once, but each time, he has been pulled out of harm’s way. Intervention and appropriate mental health care helped Felix Martinez break the crisis cycle that led to multiple jail stays. Now, he’s helping others realize their own recovery. It’s time we invested in dignity, providing all people who have mental illness care - not punishment. One time, when Felix was living in the Rio Grande Valley, the voices frustrated him so much that he attempted to stab them. He was stabbing a door frame with a knife when police found him. He would not respond to the policemen’s commands, so one officer hit him on the head with a baton. Felix has the scar to this day. Felix wheeled around to see who had hit him, and the police thought he was going to stab one of them. They were about to shoot him when his brother, who was one of the officers, told them to stop. At that time, law enforcement was neither trained nor equipped to help people with mental illness, so Felix went to jail without receiving treatment. In time, he was released from jail, but because his mental illness had not been addressed, he experienced another crisis. Again, his behavior was misconstrued as an attempt to hurt others, and he went back to jail. Felix bounced between jail and the hospital for some time. Eventually, a doctor diagnosed Felix with schizoaffective bipolar disorder and prescribed him the appropriate medication. This allowed Felix to begin working toward recovery. Felix moved to Houston to live with his daughter and began receiving services at MHMRA. In 2006, he joined the Consumer Advisory Council (CAC). He first worked as a volunteer, but when MHMRA adopted the CAC as an official program, he began to receive a stipend. Serving as a peer advisor is Felix’s job now, but it’s also his passion. “We [consumer advocates] tell people that it’s possible to recover from mental illness,” he said. “It’s rewarding to see when people ask for assistance, and we provide it. We see people who are in crisis, but then later they are happy and talkative.” Recovery is possible Felix’s story reminds me of one of the six goals put forth by The 2003 President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. That goal, known as the recovery model, was to make mental health care be consumer and family driven. Throughout the Commission’s deliberations, the theme of recovery kept emerging with multiple meanings and implications. The Commission determined that recovery should become a defining expectation of future mental health care. The emergence of the recovery model has occurred, in part, because of advocacy done through the consumer movement. Many definitions of recovery describe it as a process of positive adaptation to illness and disability, linked strongly to self-awareness and a sense of empowerment. I like Dr. Bill Anthony’s version, which says, “It is a way of living a satisfying, hopeful, and contributing life even with the limitations caused by illness. Recovery involves the development of new meaning and purpose in one’s life as one grows beyond the catastrophic effects of mental illness.” Felix’s story is a great example of this. In order to succeed in providing recovery-oriented services, we need to expand and grow the mental health outpatient care system in our community. Unfortunately, funds continue to be directed to emergency services and not to outpatient recovery care. While the availability of emergency services is critical, the long term ability to maintain meaningful recovery is dependent upon a robust, ongoing outpatient system that is evidencebased and supports the provisions of excellent care by expert psychiatrists, psychologists, nursing staff, other mental health professionals and peer advocates. The key to helping people grow beyond their limitations and enjoy improved quality of life is to provide a care system that supports lifelong recovery efforts. Sylvia Muzquiz-Drummond, M.D. Medical Director, Mental Health Services Division 2012 Annual Report | MHMRA of Harris County| 3