Behind the hotline, counselors and others ready to help at the Harris Center

Reaching out for help is often difficult, even more so when you are in a crisis. 
When someone does make the call for help it's frequently to the National Suicide Lifeline. 
 This crisis hot line isn't just one location, with one set of employees, instead it's a network of help centers and caring individuals located across the nation. Calls are transferred to the nearest location based on phone area codes.
When someone calls the Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) :

  • You'll hear an automated message featuring additional options while your call is routed to your local Lifeline network crisis center.
  •     You'll hear a little music while being connected to a skilled, trained crisis worker
  •     A trained crisis worker at your local center will answer the phone
  •     This person will listen to you, understand how your problem is affecting you, provide support and get you the help you need.

Lifeline Center calls are free and confidential and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

When someone calls from a Houston area code, the call will get routed to the Harris Center, between the Crisis Line and the access line they talk to 900 – 1,000 people, every day.

Donelle, one of the Crisis Line counselors points out that people are not going to get bombarded with questions, "We're having a conversation, we just want to understand their concerns. We're here to help them through whatever crisis they may be having. When someone reaches out to us we want them to know they've reached a safe place to talk to someone."

If you were to get an opportunity to listen in  on these counselors you'd hear things like:
"I'm  sorry to hear you're having a hard time today, but I am glad that you reached out to us and I'd really like to talk to you some more about what's been going on so that maybe we can figure out how we can help today."
"That sounds like it's been hard, but I appreciate you sharing that with me. Can you tell me a little bit more. Like how long has this been going on?
"Yeah, it sounds like it has been very overwhelming for you, do you have any support?"
"That sounds like a very frustrating situation, I'm glad you called us to talk about what's happening. Can you tell me how you've been taking care of yourself? Are you getting enough rest?"
Because the Houston area is so diverse, besides having Spanish speaking counselors the center is also equipped with over the phone translation services that allow for 140 other languages. There are about 40 full time crisis line specialists who are scheduled around the clock so that they can provide high level quality care to anybody who needs to call, regardless of the time of day or day of the week.

Director of Access, Jennifer Battle explains, "What ever the issue is that's causing you distress. Then, that's a crisis for you. We are going to ask you if you're having thoughts of suicide, because that's an important question, so that we know the risk. Our goal is to try to be present with people in whatever situation is causing them stress and anxiety or vulnerability, regardless of suicidality."

There's no wrong door for help, if needed you can call the Harris Center Crisis Line at 713-970-7000 and select option 1 for the crisis line. A lot of what the Crisis Line does is look for ways to remove barriers for people to access care and many times they are the first stop.

Jennifer Battle says, " So many people call us and they've never told their story to anyone before. We want to make sure, that we make it as streamlined as possible and as comfortable as we can when someone makes that bold decision to make that call and reach out for help."

Sometimes when a call comes in that is urgent or emergent, perhaps the person is suicidal or homicidal, someone who recognizes they need help, then the mobile crisis team will spring into action.

 "If they are wanting us to come out, then we will come out. We're going to assess the situation and see what needs to be happen, if someone cannot be safe in their home, we would talk to them about getting hospitalized and then we would help them through that process. It's really up to the client what, they feel is best, if we can create a safety plan to keep them in home we'll do that and continue to work with them. We have a psychiatrist standing by and we can develop a long term mental health care plan. Our goal is to avoid hospitalization, we want to keep someone in the least restrictive environment possible." says Sarah Strang of the Mobil outreach team.

Besides helping at the moment of crisis the Harris Center also provides outpatient mental health services for children, teens and adults. No appointment is needed and walk-ins are processed on a first come, first-served basis, Monday – Friday from 7:30 am to 3:00 pm.

Tiffany Williams Brooks, Regional Crisis Manager at the Harris Center clarifies the process, 
"We do require some documents . We  require proof of residency. We also need to see what kind of insurance they might have. The Harris Center accepts everybody. We accept Medicaid, CHIP, private insurance, no insurance whatsoever. If they walk in off the street and come in, they are going to be guaranteed an assessment as long as we have slots available for them. We also have a sliding scale fee for those clients with no insurance, we're going to still accept them. We don't turn anyone away."

The Harris Center not only serves Harris County but also 33 other counties in the state. There are 4 community service centers located in the county. To get in contact with mental health services call 713-970, 7000 and select option 2.