Mental Illness Awareness Week

b2ap3_thumbnail_miaw-logoThe first full week of October, the 4th through the 10th, is Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW). Established in 1990 by Congress, this week is dedicated to raising awareness, educating the public, and promoting acceptance of those with mental illness. In the 25 years since its founding, there has been major progress in social attitudes, understanding, and treatment of mental illness and those who live with it, but a need remains for greater research and empathy for the way those with mental illness navigate and view the world.

“For our women who struggle with substance abuse and mental illness, behavioral health treatment is essential to their survival. So often I hear our women say that if it were not for The Women’s Home they would not be alive. We also know that nearly 50% of those in prison have a substance abuse or mental illness disorder. The majority have never been treated for their illness. Having access to treatment is more cost effective and more humane than prison or potentially suicide.” Paula Paust, Executive Director of The Women’s Home.

That need for understanding and adaptability is why The Women’s Home is dedicated to ensuring our behavioral health staff and interns utilize the best research-based practices possible to serve our residents. It is why we are dedicated not only to ensuring our staff receive the best training possible, but that our interns do as well, so when they leave The Home, they will have the skills necessary to serve the community. As a part of following best practices, we provide trauma-informed care to our residents that treats not only their struggles with addiction or mental illness but addresses the underlying history and events that exacerbate and cause these conditions. By helping our clients find and unpack the root causes and triggers of the conditions that effect their daily lives, we give them the best opportunity to develop understanding and healthy tools to minimize stressors, combat their symptoms, and recover from illnesses that have overshadowed many of their lives.

We wrote in our article on National Recovery Month about the importance of collaborations and expert trainings to our programs and that is true for our behavioral health care as well. We strengthen our clinical care through partnership our partnership with Baylor College of Medicine to provide on-site psychiatric care and medication. Our clinical staff and interns are trained in Brené Brown’s The Daring Way™ to help residents learn resilience and overcome their shame. Once construction on our WholeLife® Service Center and housing for women and families is complete, we will be able to expand our behavioral healthcare to include not only women, but their families as well through a partnership with Depelchin Children’s Center. Like all our programs, this new facility will informed by the standards and research provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Continuum of Care (CoC) program. Coc supports nonprofits’ efforts to end homelessness through rapid rehousing, and access to mainstream support services while minimizing the trauma and effects of dislocation on those facing homelessness.

Appreciating the Importance of Recovery

b2ap3_thumbnail_RM-2015-Logos-343x94September is National Recovery Month, a time to raise awareness of the positive impact support services and treatment can have on those suffering from addiction or mental health disorders. National Recovery Month began in 1989 as Treatment Works! Month, a way to honor the efforts of treatment professionals who support and guide those working through addiction on their journey to recovery. Today National Recovery Month has evolved to include mental illness and encourage us to raise awareness and educate ourselves on the need for strong programs and resources for those in need in our communities.

Here at The Women’s Home, Recovery Month reminds us of the importance of the work we do to ensure we’re always providing programs informed by best practices and the latest research on recovery and wellness. The foundation of all our services, the WholeLife® Program, was developed using the latest research on successful long term recovery and encompasses all aspects of a person’s wellbeing. This complete support of mind, body and spirit would not be possible without the support and collaborations with our friends and partners in the community. Ensuring that our residents are given the best tools to lead a whole life means providing shame resilience training through our Brené Brown certified clinical staff who lead clients through Brown’s The Daring Way™. It means offering residents seeking spiritual growth the support of dedicated trained volunteers in our The Courage to Search and The Search Continues. It means creating partnerships with organizations like The Women’s Fund and Dress for Success for financial and professional trainings.

 

Providing the best care possible also means studying the needs here in Houston, a path which led to the development of our current construction projects The WholeLife Service Center and a second housing complex for women and families. These new facilities will expand our services to not only providing support and treatment for those in recovery, but also providing resources that can prevent the crisis situations that leave people vulnerable to mental illness and addiction.

The Women’s Home Re:Entry Summit Seeks to Empower and Educate

Re-Entry Summit LogoTexas has the largest prison populations in the United States. In 2014, 12,214 of those incarcerated were women, and of those women, 8,550 served a previous sentence. Ex-offenders face a multitude of legal and social barriers that inhibit them from successfully re-entering society. A study by the Legal Action Center found that Texas has over 32 different laws restricting released prisoners, ranging from employment policies to limitations on public assistance. These barriers increase the likelihood of relapse and recidivism among individuals with criminal records. One in five women released in Harris County will receive insufficient support in overcoming these barriers.

While post-release reintegration is difficult for anyone, women face unique challenges that are often overlooked and lead to unmet needs. Female offenders are more prone to addiction, mental illness, low self-esteem, lack of job skills or experience and homelessness than their male counterparts. Women out of prison also face additional challenges in finding employment: many second-chance jobs are primarily manual labor and involve time commitments that conflict with childcare responsibilities.

The Women’s Home, with funding from the Texas Bar Foundation, will host a summit September 30 addressing the challenges women transitioning from prison to society face.

The summit will take place at United Way Houston and feature panel discussions and breakout sessions with national and local experts addressing the challenges women face before, during and after their experience with the prison system. Subjects covered will include behavioral health, law and policy making, as well as housing and employment barriers.

Keynote speakers include Dr. Mary D. Looman and Dr. John D. Carl, the authors of A Country Called Prison and Dr. Andrea M. Leverentz, author of The Ex-Prisoner’s Dilemma. Drs. Looman and Carl propose that prison is a culture that begins with disadvantaged, abusive and neglected childhoods setting up an entire segment of the population to become duel citizens who struggle between U.S. societal norms and a country called prison. A Country Called Prison offers pragmatic and economical suggestions to reform the prison system and address the incarceration epidemic in America.

Dr. Leverentz offers an in-depth, firsthand look at the former prisoner’s experience reentering American society in The Ex-Prisoner’s Dilemma. Through a series of interviews with forty-nine women, Dr. Andrea Leverentz reveals how the formerly incarcerated attempt to navigate and reconstruct their roles as mothers, daughters, sisters, romantic partners, friends, students and workers. The book depicts the precariousness of reentry for women in light of public policy, a primary focus on male prisoners, and the way society views the formerly incarcerated.

The Houston area has not seen an event of this nature since 2008, making this a great opportunity to bring our community together and advocate on behalf of female ex-offenders.  By educating our community, we hope to create better opportunities for women as they re-enter society, helping to keep them from experiencing homelessness or further incarceration.

Click here to register online for the summit

For more information about the summit, contact Marcia Tapp at 713.328.1975 or at mtapp@thewomenshome.org.

Coming in September: The Women’s Home Re:Entry Summit

Re-Entry Summit Logo

Texas has the 5th highest incarceration rate and one of the largest prison populations in the nation, with women making up nearly a third of those incarcerated, a vast majority of whom were charged for nonviolent crimes. One in five of those women will end up in Harris County upon her release. According to a study by the Legal Action Center, all ex-offenders in Texas face over 32 different legal barriers upon reentry, ranging from employment policies to limitations on public assistance.

Women reentering society face additional challenges that are often overlooked including a lack of job skills, need for family housing, and difficulty finding employers offering positions conducive to childcare responsibilities. These challenges combined with a lack of resources and support put women with criminal records at higher risk of homelessness, mental illness, and addiction than their male counterparts.

This obvious need is why The Women’s Home will be hosting a two day summit to show community leaders the faces of those struggling with reentry and connect women with the resources they need. The Re:Entry summit, funded in part by Houston Bar Foundation, will take place September 30th to October 1st at United Way Houston, with a job and resource fair for women with criminal histories at South Main Baptist Church the next day. Partnering with local organizations, the summit will address issues including housing, job skills, the children our incarceration system leaves behind and research supported alternatives to the traditional prison system.

The first day of the summit will have education panels featuring local experts and policy makers who are advocating for fair and accessible resources for those with criminal histories. This portion of the summit will focus on educating service providers, community leaders, and local businesses about the challenges women previously incarcerated face when reentering society. The second day, taking place at South Main Baptist Church will provide women, especially those with criminal records, free access to a job and social services fair as well as a legal clinic tailored to the struggles reentering women face.

“We see these struggles everyday with many of the clients we serve, and we hope this summit serves as a way to address the problems, while directly helping the women who will be attending,” Marcia Tapp, Director of Resource Development for The Women’s Home said.