“To be effective, we must build relationships with our clients,” says Overzenia Ojuri. Overzenia is a founding attorney and Mental Health Chief of the Fort Bend County Public Defender’s Office Mental Health Division.
With attorneys, a counselor, and case managers on staff, this division is responsible for those charged with a felony or misdemeanor and have a mental health diagnosis or a suspected mental health diagnosis. “These individuals have so many collateral issues to face besides the criminal charges,” explains Overzenia. “From the moment they’re booked into our jail, we provide additional support throughout the process. Our staff has undergone hours of training to meet their needs. We work hand-in-hand with lots of mental health entities and organizations here in Fort Bend County to provide whatever is needed for mental stability. Our ultimate goal is to avoid recidivism. A mental health diagnosis is not a death sentence. We have so many resources here in the community.”
Texana Center is a nonprofit organization that provides behavioral healthcare and developmental disabilities services to county residents. Texana has a wide array of programs, including a crisis center, behavioral services, case management, and an early onset program to help young adults with a psychotic diagnosis live their best quality life.
Here in Fort Bend County, families can call the Crisis Intervention Team when a loved one is behaving oddly. Overzenia says, “A trained officer will respond and do a diversion if possible. If the individual presents as a danger to self or others, the officer can contact a screener at Texana to come do an assessment to see if he/she meets the criteria for hospitalization, and an emergency detention order can be issued.
“I also encourage every mental health family member to get plugged into NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness),” continues Overzenia. In 2016, Fort Bend NAMI mom Pat Sumner and other NAMI members joined together to open Hope Fort Bend Clubhouse to provide hope for those in our community living with a mental health condition. By partnering with several agencies, clubhouse members are supported in returning to paid work through transitional, supportive, and independent employment programs with access to transportation and safe housing.
“For those facing criminal charges, our division includes mental health courts and mental health probation officers,” explains Overzenia. “We foster and encourage our clients to live prosperous and successful lives. My office is conveniently located inside the Fort Bend County Justice Center. If you have questions, I would be happy to meet with you!”