Houston's Craziest

In a one-of-a-kind short list, HPD names the 30 most troubled mentally ill in the city.

The woman behind one apartment door — it had the Ten Commandments scrawled on it — threatened Maire with a pistol after the caseworker wouldn't leave.

Maire retreated that day, but kept coming back, and eventually she discovered her client lived in a home that didn't have running water or electricity. Maire is working to find her a new place to live.

As a result, Maire says the client "is ­doing well and stabilized at this time. I have seen a drastic improvement in her attitude and her disposition since we have shown an interest in her recently."

Jimmy Bailey, on the police department's list, is part of a mentally ill population that, as one caseworker puts it, "doesn't have any more chances to get better. They've already lost themselves once."
Chris Curry
Jimmy Bailey, on the police department's list, is part of a mentally ill population that, as one caseworker puts it, "doesn't have any more chances to get better. They've already lost themselves once."
After Alas helped Williams (left) get social security benefits, they went shopping at Target.
Chris Curry
After Alas helped Williams (left) get social security benefits, they went shopping at Target.

Bailey has become somewhat of a favorite to Maire; since her involvement, he has made progress, greatly reducing his hospitalizations and contact with police. It didn't take some new medication or new type of therapy for Bailey to get stable, but just more personal attention.

"Everyone wants to blame the patient when they go into crisis, when they act like that," Maire says. "But a lot of times, they're just not being treated right."

In an assessment of Bailey, Maire complains, "He has case management services through [a health care provider]; however, they have not provided him with any services for some time. They have promised him a trip to his hometown, and informed him he would get this after one month of no hospital stays. They did not follow through, but stated that it would be two months before they reward him for staying out of the hospital. Needless to say, it appears they are not consistent with their methods of reinforcement."

"He wants to go fishing."

Bailey grew up in Center, an East Texas oil town about 120 miles north of Beaumont where the population has never been much more than 5,000 and the median income isn't much higher than $20,000.

"I had a wonderful mother. She walked me down to the road every morning so my ride could pick me up, because there wasn't a turnaround by our house for the van, and every night she'd be waiting for me," Bailey says. "But my father would beat me with anything he could get his hands on."

The physical scar that has lasted longest from the abuse Bailey took from his father is a knot that looks like a fist pushing out from the back of Bailey's head, the result of a beating with a piece of firewood. Bailey says he also saw his father beat his mother, sister and elderly uncle.

His first psychotic episode happened when he was 18 and a senior in high school. He disappeared, and says he was abducted by drug dealers at gunpoint and locked in a room for a couple weeks. That resulted in a stay in Rusk State Hospital, and he was later sent to Houston — his godmother didn't think mental health services in Center were good enough — and he bounced between here and East Texas for about ten years before permanently moving to Houston after his mother died in 2007.

"There's nothing like losing your momma," Bailey says. "You won't be ready to deal with that one."

Bailey hasn't found a group home in Houston where he can stay out of fights, and finding a good place for him to live has been one of Maire's biggest goals.

She wanted to get him into Lufkin State School, but he tested for only mild mental retardation, so he doesn't qualify for placement. Maire moved Bailey from several other group homes that she didn't think were right — Bailey's friend died of an overdose at one of the homes and Maire thought the owner of another place stole money from him — but he lives in a home now, in far south Houston, that Maire thinks is working.

"Miss Janice was able to track me down and find me," Bailey says. "That's when my stabilization started."
_____________________

Then the program hired 33-year-old Chris Alas.

He started working in the mental health field while he was in college at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos and desperately needed a job. A friend told him that a nearby psychiatric clinic didn't ask for a drug test or have much of any requirement to get hired. He got the job and loved working at the hospital, in that field, so much that when graduate school didn't work out in tiny Alpine, Texas, a few years later, Alas moved back to Austin and opened several group homes for mentally retarded people.

He owned and operated the homes for several years before the stress became too much and he sold them, eventually moving back to his hometown of Houston after hearing about the job with MHMRA. Lee says that Alas, who sports tattoos on both arms and wears his hair jet black and spiked, has been a perfect fit.

The first time Alas showed up at 37-year-old Tashonya Williams's apartment, he says he was approached by a man who asked if he would like to buy crack cocaine. Alas said no and knocked on the door.

Williams had five children from different fathers, and after losing custody of her kids in 2004, she has stayed unemployed without benefits and relied, for the most part, on her grandmother for money. Williams often went for days without food in her apartment, Alas says.

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