Paradise Center Visitors Protest MHMR

16
Posted February 21, 2011 by Jeff Prince in Blotch

“Honk for justice!” protesters yelled over and over as cars passed by on busy Hulen Street during today’s lunch hour.

Protesters were waving  signs in front of the Tarrant County Mental Health and Mental Retardation headquarters.

PARADISE CENTER REGULAR SERENA WILLIAMS JOINED PROTESTERS IN FRONT OF MHMR HEADQUARTERS (photo by Jeff Prince)

PARADISE CENTER REGULAR SERENA WILLIAMS JOINED PROTESTERS IN FRONT OF MHMR HEADQUARTERS (photo by Jeff Prince)

The protesters like to socialize, play games, and hang out during the week at Paradise Center, a nonprofit organization and peer support community center for adults with mental illness. The center, which opened in 1998, operates in a building provided by MHMR on South Jennings Avenue.

But last week, MHMR fired the center’s only fulltime staffer, Teresa Davis. She had been running the center for 10 years and was close to many of the regulars.

“They didn’t just fire me, they kicked out everybody and locked our doors and changed our locks,” Davis said.

She and a half-dozen Paradise Center regulars decided to picket MHMR to show their displeasure.

Teresa Gabel, a Paradise regular for 10 years, said MHMR “slammed the door in our faces when we went to get our personal belongings.”

Gabel said the center plays an important part in the lives of many people with mental difficulties.

“Paradise Center has kept me and others out of the hospital for years,” she said. “This way we don’t sit at home and worry about our problems.  If somebody is having a bad day, we sit and talk to them.”

Paradise Center’s slogan is “a community of friends helping friends in mental health recovery.”

MHMR spokesperson Donna Massey said the center will continue being a community of friends — the building was open for business today as usual and will continue that way, only without Davis at the helm.

“We just had a change in management,” Massey said. “It has caused some issues.”

Massey said Davis was fired last week but was going to be allowed  into the Paradise building on Friday after closing time to collect her personal belongings. (Massey said she couldn’t discuss the reasons for Davis’ termination.)

However, Davis showed up with a group of people, including clients, who all wanted to come inside the building at the same time and fetch belongings, Massey said. The building contains various computer items, furnishings, games, and whatnot, some belonging to MHMR, some belonging to Paradise, some belonging to visitors.

Rather than let a large group of people inside to start grabbing items, Massey kept the doors shut and asked Davis to submit an inventory list of possessions, Massey said. She also requested a meeting with the Paradise Center board of directors to get an inventory list of the nonprofit’s belongings.

“We just want to make sure it happens in an appropriate manner,” she said.

As for the center, it was open today during regular hours and MHMR has no plans of closing it in the future or reducing services, Massey said.

The center might be renamed if the Paradise Center Inc. nonprofit group severs ties with MHMR, but it will otherwise continue offering the same space and services, Massey said.

“This is an unfortunate personnel decision, but we’re not going to be closing the doors,” she said. “We’re committed to that drop-in center.”

Steve Doeung, a Paradise Center board member and husband to Davis, said the center has become a vital part of many people’s lives over the years. MHMR has provided the building, utilities, a van, and other overhead items over the years, but the success of Paradise is attributed to Davis and the visitors, Doeung said.

“They have worked hard to build up this reputable organization and community center,” he said.


16 Comments


  1.  
    FWISD Product

    Nice story. But whispers around MHMR is that there is a scheme to use the established reputation and leadership and skills of those people running the place as volunteers to keep attracting mental health consumers so MHMR and a private company can bill Medicaid for providing an essential component of mental health treatment/recovery.

    There’s also talk of emergency meetings by the Board of Trustees and the executives to prepare for legal actions and possible investigations related to the whole affair, which those in the know say could cost a bunch of money and even executives’ jobs.

    Please stay on this story because something doesn’t smell right about what MHMR is trying to present.




  2.  
    Carol

    MHMR may not have plans of closing Paradise Center or reducing services, but will it truly be a “client run” organization as it has been in the past? It seems that MHMR has other plans for the building which may include serving individuals with mental illness, however, Teresa Davis and the consumers have kept Paradise Center “alive” for the past 10 years. As a consumer run organization, Paradise Center has given many individuals suffering with mental illness a reason to continue in life. It has given them hope, encouragment, and a place where they truly felt needed….because the organization did not “run” without the consumers or Mrs. Davis! So, will MHMR keep it a consumer run organization or just allow the clients to participate in what they tell them to do? Paradise Center has opened their doors on weekends and every holiday such as Christmas and Thanksgiving. Teresa Davis, her family, friends and volunteers were the ones there to help, not MHMR faculty and staff. And, why would MHMR need a “change in management”, as Massey said, when Teresa Davis has not had an evaluation in 8 years (because she was the director of a non-profit, not an MHMR employee) and has been a dedicated worker. Why the sudden change???? Something’s not right! What is MHMR trying to hide?




  3.  
    Linda

    The clients of Paradise Center are family. They care about each other and help each other stay well. I have heard so many from other areas comment that they would love to have a safe place like Paradise and someone like Teresa. I know of no other that understands and helps clients like she does. Football season found her preparing weekly for the football games. Cooking and providing rides so that the group could get together to cheer for the Cowboys. They were able to have get togethers like friends do. Her phone turned on 24/7. She takes them to grocery shop, doctor appointments, out to eat and on and on. You do not find someone like Teresa that has dedicated her life to helping those that suffer from an illness that so few understand. She keeps these folks well and out of the hospital. She has respect for them and they love and respect her. This sitution with the loss of their “home” is pitiful. No,it is shameful. Teresa deserves respect.




  4.  
    Bob C.

    Teresa Davis deserves better than this, as do the people who are served by Paradise Center.




  5.  
    emey

    They threw away her papers and stuff from her office!




  6.  
    Glenda

    Not only did Teresa keep many patients out of the hospital
    she gave up all her holidays for the patients. So the patients would not be home alone and could be with “family” . She does deserve better. I think someone should look into “the reasons” she was terminated.




  7.  
    Advocate

    The Paradise Center has always had a good balance of structure, support and love making it a safe and helpful place for a wide array of adults having mental health issues. The leadership has always met each individual where they are at and whatever severity or lack of each person had. This is a truly valuable program to our community. My biggest fear from this latest move is will the program become a one size fits all approach like so many other programs in our community? One truly valuable piece of information must be kept in mind when dealing with the mentally is that their illness affects the individual in individual ways. I do hope going forward the center remains a value to our community and not some type of wasteful or ineffective dog and pony show.




  8.  
    janieb

    Paradise Center, Inc. has often been referred to mistakenly as a program of MHMR. Its even listed on their web page as one of their programs. This has led to alot of confusion in the community. Clouds up the relationship between a government entity and a non-profit. How many more non-profits are there that MHMR is “clouding” a relationship. On their webpage, there is a link to a Visions. Tried to check into it. Is this another situation waiting to blow up and have mentally ill people suffer?




  9.  
    Very Suspicious

    I have to agree with FWISD Product… I think this all boils down to money! It’s no secret that every state funded agency is under tremendous pressure to cut costs and raise revenue. And their financial contributions to the Paradise Center are not insignificant. So a scheme to convert the Paradise Center into a taxpayer funded “profit center” (at least profitable enough to not be a financial drain to MHMR) is the only thing that makes any sense to me. If that’s the case then MHMR should just be honest and say so rather than engaging in what seems like a hostile takeover of a successful, client-run non-profit. So yes, please do stay on top of this.




  10.  
    janieb

    Actually, if one goes to http://www.guidestar.org where legitimate and reputable non-profits posts their financial disclosure/annual IRS filings, Paradise Center Inc. only gets around $150,000.oo PER YEAR TOTAL. Apparently the people who are members do the rest of the work like janitorial services themselves and have regular fund raisers.

    MHMR’s annual taxpayer funded budget is over $100Million. Do the math.

    No wonder people speak so highly of this little non-profit and their resourceful leader. And why these normally scared and compliant “patients” decided to take this stand for themselves and their organization.

    FW should be proud and ashamed because there are so many chances to exercise their first amendment right like this but cowtowners appear to be “compliant” to the powers that be.

    Tunisia–Egypt–Libya—MHMR…down with abusive autocrats. FWISD after that?




  11.  
    Joe B.

    There appears to be SO MUCH MORE to this story, folks. There are all kinds of revelations, accusations, and discussions on a new site http://paradise-center-scandal.blogspot.com.

    There are some shocking revelations and really nasty people working for that Jim McDermott and MHMR.

    I’m assuming the Weekly is getting ready to publish a detailed story like the AHHS scandal. Can’t wait.




  12.  
    MHMR staff

    Mr. Prince, you should go by the place that’s now called the drop-in center. Ms. Massey was not very honest at all about everything she told you.

    First, just about EVERYTHING has changed in and with the place. The inside has been turned into a “sterile” and cold institutional type of place with 4 or 5 MHMR and Bravo Health staff “running” the whole place, totally opposite of Paradise Center’s consumer-run community center where friends helped friends in daily life and in operating THEIR OWN PLACE AND ORGANIZATION.

    MHMR-TC can do what they want with the facility and with Bravo Health to bill Medicaid, but at least be honest about it.

    Drive by some time and see the POD that MHMR-TC big shots like Ms. Massey had locked up some of Paradise Center’s belongings, which was pretty much
    EVERYTHING IN THERE. You’ll also notice that many of the clients are sitting in the sun on the hot blacktop or laying on the cooler grass area since they’re no longer allowed to sit under the awning besides the building like before.

    And if you ask them, they will tell you they miss Theresa and their friends and leaders. And cannot wait for Paradise Center to reopen so they don’t feel like they’re feeling now under the so called new management. Which includes having another professional staff there to monitor the lady they put in Theresa’s place. You know what, MHMR-TC really screwed up a very, very good thing by what they did. Because not only did hurt so many consumers in their recovery, it also is causing a lot of confusion and fear among the agency employees. Because if they could do what they did to Theresa, any one of us could be next.

    Plus, I don’t think all these new paid staff together will ever be even half as effective and efficient as Theresa was. Some organization is gonna get a great employee. And based on what I hear and sense, MHMR-TC is gonna lose a lot of employees if the current leadeship remains in place after this scandal. Yes, interestingly that’s the word I hear other employees use a lot when referring to what was done to Theresa and the consumers and Paradise.

    I’m using my own time and internet for MHMR-TC police monitoring our free speech rights. That’s another reason why many of us are so disgusted and looking to leave the agency.




  13.  
    MHMR staff

    MHMR-TC staff have been passing around a local blog http://www.paradise-center-scandal.blogspot.com that reveals some damning evidence against the agency, including a reference to a feature story by Betty Brink. Intriguing stuff.




  14.  
    MHMR staff

    We cannot believe the FW Weekly was so easily fooled by these incompetent MHMR-TC execs and the commissioners court, which Jim McDermott plays with like his little banjo. Talk about the tail wagging the dog. And getting played.




  15.  
    mhmr staffer

    MHMR is getting to big for the good of the client. This last year they WASTED as much money as possible before the end of the year. Setting up personal luxury items for high ranking staff, buying all new equipment to replace serviceable equipment. Every dollar wasted is a client not served. Recently a director pushed to buy a new home for a group home, it was a family members house and I promise you it was not a bargain. Sounds like a conflict of interest. For what has been spent buying and retro fitting this home a NEW home could have been built. Not to even mention the furniture and tv sets that were perfectly serviceable that where thrown out this year. This agencies priority should be client service not the self centered childish actions of the board of directors and service directors.




  16.  
    Diana

    Finally….MHMR Gestapo tactics are out in the open. The entire Administration is shady, underhanded, and way too long in their positions. This quasi-governmental entity needs a way overdue survey and overhaul.





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