MHMRA of Harris County - Annual Report FY 2012 2012 - Page 6

Investing in Healthy Minds and a Healthy Community Investing in Well-Being F or Brian Palmer, one of the most meaningful parts of MHMRA’s Crisis Residential Unit’s (CRU) alumni program is the constant reminder of how far he has come. The CRU is a short-term residential alternative for people experiencing a mental health crisis who are ready to step-down from the hospital but are not quite ready to reenter the community. A typical stay lasts between one and two weeks, and during that stay, a person receives appropriate medication, psychotherapy, intensive psychosocial rehabilitation and other services. The alumni program, which is 1,800 members strong, provides a “safe harbor” for graduates of the CRU, said Mende Snodgress, assistant deputy director of MHMRA’s crisis division. If the alumni did not have this, they might return to the old influences and triggers that first caused them to experience a crisis. At the CRU, alumni can attend support groups and therapy sessions, access the computer lab and enjoy occasional meals. Participation in the alumni program has helped members reduce their rate of recidivism to hospitals and jail. Brian visits the CRU three days a week. “When you come back and see people coming behind you [into the program], it reminds you where you come from,” he said. “This place helps you because it keeps you connected. I see people come back [to visit], and they’re still stable, and that gives me hope.” Brian battled depression for over 20 years but refused to seek help. A string of bad events – going to jail This place helps you because it keeps you connected. I see people come back [to visit], and they’re still stable, and that gives me hope. repeatedly, losing his home twice and falling into drug addiction – brought him to a point where he felt isolated and deeply depressed. For two or three weeks, he cut off all contact with his family. One day, it became too much, and he checked into MHMRA’s Psychiatric Emergency Services. There, he was evaluated, diagnosed, began to be stabilized and later referred to the CRU. Once at the CRU, “I got a lot of information about myself,” Brian said. He learned how to take his medication as prescribed, and he also learned about his diagnosis, coping skills and how he could prevent a relapse. If you met Brian now, you wouldn’t guess that he once struggled so much. He lives independently, attends church and has rekindled a relationship with his family. He receives ongoing mental health care through MHMRA’s Northwest Adult Mental Health Outpatient Clinic. On Wednesday evenings, he facilitates a support group at the CRU for people who are overcoming substance abuse, and he recently took a job as a residential care technician at Lord of the Streets. Staff from the CRU provided him the references he needed. “I’m living a life I never thought I would live,” he said. Sustaining Recovery Brian’s story is an excellent example of recovery-oriented mental health care in action. The best treatment encompasses more than just psychotropic medication. While medication is usually necessary, it is, by itself, often insufficient in getting patients to their highest level of functioning, given the severity of their illness. Severe mental illness can take a toll on one’s ability to communicate and engage in meaningful social activity. It can also diminish a person’s ability to think clearly, solve problems or overcome the stressors of everyday living. Programs such as the CRU meet patients where they are in their illness and provide them with a variety of services. These services include medication, psychotherapy, nursing care, case management and referrals to community resources that can help them address their medical, employment and housing needs. The residential component of the CRU program affords patients an immediate opportunity to gain strength by taking part in a therapeutic community of fellow patients and staff. When 6| 2012 Annual Report| MHMRA of Harris County patients graduate from the CRU, they are offered enrollment in one of MHMRA’s mental health outpatient clinics and a lifelong membership in the alumni program. The alumni program provides a forum in which participants can continue to grow, be encouraged when undergoing challenges, develop friendships and offer support to those who are just beginning their recovery journey. The alumni program operates on the principal that recovery does not happen in a moment, and it