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August 9, 2023

Austin State Hospital: Then & Now

By: Ike Evans

The second installment of Mind of Texas dives headfirst into Austin State Hospitals oral history project with UT professor emeritus Dr. King Davis and historic preservation coordinator D.D. Clark to learn what state hospital archives teach us about mental health and equity today.

In part two, peer support specialist Parker LaCombe chimes in with her experiences on state hospitals and mental health field – both in terms of receiving and offering services.

The full transcript of this episode of Mind of Texas is available on the KUT & KUTX Studio website. The transcript is also available as subtitles or captions on some podcast apps.

Intro I would love to see some real healing in the mind of Texas. The mind of Texas is affecting me very deeply. The mind of Texas is critical to what the future of Texas is about.

Ike Evans Hi, I’m Ike Evans, host of The Mind of Texas podcast from KUT News 90.5. Texas is a big and diverse state, and so are the minds of the people in it. Each episode we bring you a discussion on what’s happening in Texas and its effect on our mental health.

D. Clark I want people to understand that state hospitals, public health is the soft place that people land when they have nowhere else to go. And I believe any time that we are at a table, we have an obligation to make room for others to also have their voice heard. We have to put time, money, energy and effort towards that. Otherwise, we perpetuate the problem.

Ike Evans Texas state hospitals are in the middle of a much needed renovation. One thing to know about state institutions, including state hospitals, is that they churn out records by the thousands records that document processes, that document lived realities, that document people. And so we are going to be talking about state hospital preservation from the point of view of experts, from the point of view of state agencies and other stakeholders, and from the point of view of people with lived experience. We are in studio with D. D. Clark, Historic Preservation and Grants coordinator for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, and Dr. King Davis current lead on the Austin State Hospital Archives Project. Disclosure Note Dr. Davis is a former executive director of the Hogg Foundation and the State Hospital Archives Project is funded through a grant from Hogg, Dr. King, it’s so great to have you here today.

Dr. King Davis It’s a pleasure to be here.

Ike Evans The ultimate stakeholder for the Austin State Hospital redesign is the state of Texas. You know the people of Texas. Why does the state have such an interest in historic preservation?

D. Clark It came as a big surprise to me, and I’m sure will to others, that preservation has been a part of this state hospital culture since day one, when state hospitals open ash. Specifically, employees lived on campus, entire families lived on campus. Their kiddos ran the grounds as their playground. And in going through the different collections, beginning with Ash, I found that thanks have been kept and taken care of since day one. The ledgers were identified with the name of the facility on it. Flatware, including like the forks and the spoons had SLA stamped in them, which told me they want this forks and knives last forever. You know what I’m saying? And SLA stood for state lunatic asylum. Property was identified with a brass tag like for inventory management of property. And I found that on the back of artifacts, large armoires, bureaus, dressers, medical equipment, that the brass tag would be attached to the back of it, but that as the inventory system changed and progressed and new tags were brought in. Well, they just put that new tag next to it so you could see the history right there in it. Individuals in the community would contact me and say, we have pieces that we purchased at the famous garage sales auctions that the hospitals used to have, that we loved to bring those back home if there’s ever an official collection created for the hospital. I’ve seen pieces of artwork by patients telling their story that they were wanting that piece of artwork to stay together. Pat Employers say whenever there is an official spot, let me know. We have things in our office that we’ve kept. So it’s been an effort by families to the agency that allowed us to keep this stuff in buildings because, you know, it can accumulate over time. So we’ve had buildings to keep it in, though not as environmentally stable as we wish. But preservation has been part of the culture across the system in one form or another. So it’s not so much that it’s new, it’s that we’re now a bit more organized and concerted in that effort and reaching out to professionals because preservation is not the wheel well of mental health services. Recovery is. So we have one person on the inside now we’re developing our contacts with external stakeholders and individuals that are interested in it and helping to bring it all together so that it tells the story that we’d like it to tell.

Ike Evans So, King, we’d love to know more about the State Hospital Archives digitization project that you just recently wrapped up. What is its scope and why was it necessary?

Dr. King Davis The scope is extraordinarily broad. It’s designed to capture as much with the resources that we have of ashes history. And that history starts really in 1857 with the law that was passed. And our intent was to capture copy and at some point understand the evolution of Austin State Hospital and the thousands and thousands of Texans that have been patients there and the thousands and thousands of their family members as well. What we’ve done is to inventory every piece of paper that we could find at ASH. As we often talk about, there are things in closets that we haven’t found. There are things in desk drawers that we have not been exposed to that things probably in some rooms that we haven’t seen yet that happened just a few days ago. But overall, the idea was to develop and understand how and why and what ASH developed so that we can understand not just its past, but the nature of an uncertain future relative to persons with behavioral health disorders around recovery, around development, and to some extent to try to use part of what we learned to ease the stigma that still surrounds families, that have a person that’s gone through ash or one of the other state hospitals. So that’s what we’ve done. We have digitized well over 150,000 pages of material, probably a lot more. We have copied a variety of. Documents Gigi talks about, for example, what is this document compared to some of the others? Sometimes it’s not clear. Things that are called one thing may have been in another decade called something entirely different. So one of the tasks for us in our inventory was to digitize as many of those things, but to give them a label and a location so that they could be found. One of the other things that we’ve done is to pay particular attention to the condition of the items that we found. What condition are they in? Are they moldy? Are they brittle? Are they drive to the point that they can’t be handled? And it raises the longer term question of what happens to the paper documents. We’ve made PDFs of hundreds of thousands of items. But what about the paper documents from which they were drawn? Do they last through next year or next decade or next two decades? One of the things in the Virginia project that I have tried to convince legislators of is that the recidivism rate of persons who come in and out of the institutions is such you can’t afford to destroy the records because they’re going to be back three years from now, five years, sometimes ten years from now. So preservation really becomes one of the most extraordinarily important things that we’ve done. We have taken Ashes materials, put them on external hard drives, and we’ll provide multiple copies to various people throughout the system so that people are aware of the extraordinary extensiveness of what ASH has provided over the years. And I think it’s a guidepost for what the future may in fact be in terms of a long term recovery. We can learn from our past. We can be sure, hopefully not to repeat some of the errors that are identified in some of the records materials that we have.

Ike Evans As far as whether to make any part of that archive publicly accessible is a tricky area. I was just wanting to know if you’ve had any time to arrive at some decisions about whether and to what extent this digital archive will have much of a public facing face to it.

Dr. King Davis In part it depends upon what your state law is in Texas that allows or disallows that to take place. It depends upon the amount of advocacy by family members and family oriented organizations that may want access to the material. It depends on the relationship between the department and the universities in the area where there are researchers, historians, archivists and lots of different people that could help to decipher a lot of the material that is there. In Virginia, where I’ve worked on a project for 15 years. We have been very much involved in modifying the state law that allows for sharing of some of that information. We do family genealogical workshops with the hospital based upon some of the content that is there. So a lot depends upon what happens next in the process and whether or not there’s enough in the way of either demand or interest on the part of family members of the general public at the universities about how far we go with opening the door to access that material while at the same time honoring HIPA requirements, honoring the State Retention Act. If they’re such that it gives you some added access to some extent and over what it is that families expect to be able to do. And I could give you loads and loads of examples and I’ll give you one. The chairman of the Department of Psychiatry, a psychiatrist in Washington, D.C., his great grandfather was a patient in our hospital, and one of the things that he asked about was, can I get access to his records? And we had to go through a variety of things to be able to do that. I cannot give him access to those records, but we decided in digitizing the records that we would create a need to know criteria that would allow relatives to have access to the material. So, yes, there are possibilities in ways to do that, and I think it’s instrumental in our approach to dealing with stigma. Family members have better mental health literacy. They understand the system a lot more. They become more familiar with the terminology. And I hope that we dissipate some of the kind of fear and misunderstanding that family members have. So I’m an advocate for greater access to the material.

Ike Evans Okay. So, Central State Hospital in Virginia that once went by the name of the central lunatic asylum for Colored Insane. Now, I don’t know about y’all, but I would want every record from a place that once knew itself as that. So just to give listeners an idea of the history that we are trying to. Preserve and what the stakes are in preserving it. Well.

Dr. King Davis Center State opened in 1868 and it was segregated by race from 1868 until 1964. And it is the largest repository of any similar facility designed for African-Americans in the world. So there’s a lot that we’ve learned. We’ve done statistical correlation studies looking at where people came from, how long they stayed, what their diagnoses were, their age, and the probabilities of or what we call at risk, meaning a person being admitted to the hospital based on those characteristics. 70% of all the people admitted received a diagnosis of mania. That’s extraordinary. Absolutely extraordinary. The other thing that was so extraordinary was that a significant number of the persons died over the course of their time period in the hospital, larger than in the other hospitals in the state, greater than probably what you would have expected, even given our knowledge that persons with significant mental health issues tend to die 25 years earlier. Well, African-American people die earlier than the rest of the population anyway. So it raises these really critical kinds of questions. And it changed my life and career. I left the position that I had a duty, moved over to the School of Information and have become a very strong advocate of really making it possible for people to have access to the information, doing studies on that historical information, but certainly never destroying the original documents.

Ike Evans So D. D.  I’m sure our listeners would love to know more about the oral history project that Ash is just now embarking on.

D. Clark There’s really limited information out there about our hospitals, each one as it stands. There is actually a book about Austin State Hospital. Terrell has a book, a small little book about it, and Rusk has one that’s never been published. But outside of that, you’ll find a little bit about us in chapters here, chapters there, you’ll you’ll find a lot about the practice of psychiatry or social worker, etc.. But about the hospitals itself, know what better source to tell the story than the people who’ve worked there or individuals who are children that their parents worked there. Some of my best moments have been visiting with people at hospitals that their parents worked at that hospital and they lived and they were raised on the campus and the stories that come from them that they. I went fishing with the patient each day when I got in after school, or he would be waiting for me when I got off the bus. So being able to bring an oral history project to Ash, where we’re going to have that firsthand knowledge that they share their perception of what happened during their time at the hospital. We have individuals in the work group that bring in different parts of the community. We hope to include an equal balanced perception of the hospital. One of the most important parts of the oral history project is that we’ve brought peer support on board so that we remain compassionate and kind and considerate of the questions and any individuals that we may be interviewing so that we don’t encroach on subjects that they’d rather not talk about. So we hope to see one day the story of ash from the individuals who were part of ash and set an example on how the story could be told in other ways.

Ike Evans This next question is for both of you. How is the mind of Texas affecting yours?

D. Clark It warms my heart to know that this is a topic that wants to be heard and what we can do when it comes to stigma. I think because the last information out there that in and of itself has contributed to the stigma that we don’t talk about it and by making it just a tabletop conversation, then hopefully that would reduce the hesitancy for individuals seeking help, that it will open up conversations, it will crack that book open and allow people to even pursue treatment or pursue options.

Dr. King Davis It reminds me of Ima Hogg and it reminds me of Dr. Salomon, the first director that she selected, and the notion from both of them of discussing the mind of Texas and the mind of Texas writ very large in terms of what that meant Ima Hogg wanted to solve the problem of the mind of Texas. That was her intent. And she found a way to convince her brothers to invest their wealth into doing exactly that. And she found this extraordinary guy, Dr. Sullivan, to come to be part of the director of that, to make it happen.

Ike Evans Do you have any additional resources or just can point our listeners toward places they can go to learn more about either the ash redesign and. General or the preservation efforts.

D. Clark The ASH redesign has its own website. You are able to search it just by typing in ASH redesign. There is now a history of Ash website. Email me Deidre Clark at HHS dot Texas dot gov. We’re always looking for stories. You know, it’s just these connections that bring in another facet to this story.

Ike Evans So you just heard a pretty in-depth conversation about the Austin State hospital preservation effort. Preservation is a way to connect with people’s stories. In the case of Austin State Hospital, the big story is people, many who have lived with severe mental illness and their different journeys toward recovery. And so the stories of those with lived experience belong to this conversation, which is why I just had to reach out to our following guest, Parker LaCombe, who runs a peer support program here in Austin. Parker, how’s it going?

Parker LaCombe Awesome. Thank you so much for having me.

Ike Evans So our listeners would love to know more about you and just what it means to be a professional peer supporter.

Parker LaCombe When we talk about a peer, that means I have personal lived experience receiving mental health care services. I live with a mental health diagnosis. I live in long term recovery for both mental health challenges and substance use challenges. And now I have this very cool role where I get to truly pay it forward and advocate for people who have been where, you know, I was there. When I talk to people who are currently receiving services in inpatient settings inside of psychiatric hospitals, when I say I know what it feels like to be here, I truly mean that. And so I get to kind of be this role model in recovery to remind people that recovery is always possible.

Ike Evans And as someone who is out as a person with lived experience, what do you see as some of the stakes in the preservation work that we’ve been talking about today?

Parker LaCombe Yeah, I appreciate what you just said. I’m a person who’s out living openly with having a mental health diagnosis because that was certainly not always the case for me. And I think that preservation, that is exactly the reason that preservation is so important, because it gives us an opportunity to tell the real story and debunk some of the stigma and some of the Hollywood treats that kind of show up. When we talk about mental health care services and preservation, telling our stories, especially through the lens of people who really lived it, people who really received services there. We cannot learn from our history if we’re not paying attention to it.

Ike Evans Yeah. Okay. So you mentioned Hollywood. Are there any particular tropes that you’re tired of?

Parker LaCombe Almost all of them. Is that right? Yeah. You know, I think that we have this idea that people who have mental illness are particularly dangerous. We see a lot of this in movies. We see these, quote unquote, asylum movies. People with a diagnosis are seen as incredibly dangerous when the facts actually tell us that a person with severe mental illness is more likely statistically to be the victim of a violent crime than they are the perpetrator. And so I think that things like that truly perpetuate stigma. You know, one that really bothers me is when we talk about self-harm. There’s a lot of this Hollywood idea that self-harm people hurt themselves for attention, people hurt themselves to make a point. And I think that that is such a disservice to people who actually are living with that. It’s nonsense to think that someone would physically hurt themselves for attention, but let’s just go there for a second and say that that’s the case. Something is hurting inside of someone if they feel the need to hurt themselves. And I think that through Hollywood, through stigma, we have severely misunderstood this.

Ike Evans So you now kind of claim peer as a professional identity and as a platform from which to try to make a difference in the lives of other people. What are some milestones kind of on your way toward an actual career path that would regard what you had been through as a strength?

Parker LaCombe Yeah, I actually thought I invented peer support for 2.5 seconds because I had never heard of it before. It was not a service that I ever received when I was in treatment, and I came from a very different professional background. I was in the financial industry for about a decade. And unfortunately, it took me losing my significant other to suicide to recognize the disservice that we do to our peers, to our community when we don’t share our story, when we don’t share our hope. So I fell very backwards into peer support. It was something I was doing without recognizing I was doing it for me, doing peer supporting. I guess if we can turn that into a verb started with just talking to a friend’s daughter who was struggling with self-harm and her mom didn’t know how to have that conversation with her. And it was the first time that I was able to really witness the power of authenticity and mutuality, which are core values of peer support and how that really resonates with people and the relationship that you’re able to build when you know that someone understands the path that you have walked and there’s no judgment in that. So I decided to start doing peer support professionally. I would say my. Biggest milestone right now. My greatest accomplishment is my peer support team. I’m incredibly passionate about creating space for people at the table with lived experience, and I believe any time that we are at a table, we have an obligation to make room for others to also have their voice heard. And so to be able to build a team of people with lived experience who are passionate, strong advocates. It’s been a very cool thing to watch happen and to watch you grow in a very organic way.

Ike Evans Okay, so let’s pretend that it is the year 2020, whatever, and there is now a publicly accessible Austin State Hospital Digital Archive and whatever it is about it that has, you know, aroused your curiosity as a researcher with lived experience, what kinds of things would intrigue you or would you be kind of hoping to discover? Just rummaging through that, that would speak to your experience?

Parker LaCombe I think hearing the day to day experiences of someone in peer support, you know, we talk a lot about you have to celebrate every incremental step forward. And we’ve had a lot of people before us walk that journey, but it’s different for everybody. And so I think kind of the beauty of hearing people’s lived experience in something like a repository of oral histories would certainly be that is that we get to learn so much from each other. And when you really get to see the beauty of someone’s struggle, that helps you get in touch with you, that helps your vulnerability. And I think that that’s a really beautiful and magical thing.

Ike Evans The state of Texas is in the middle of making improvements to its state hospitals. If you could have the ear of policymakers, what things would you want to tell them about your experience?

Parker LaCombe I want people to understand that state hospitals, public health is the soft place that people land when they have nowhere else to go. We have to put time, money, energy and effort towards that. Otherwise we perpetuate the problem. If we have this idea that institutionalization is a holding cell or just a warehouse of people, we’re not doing ourselves. We’re not doing the people who need us the most, any real service. But if we start really focusing on the idea that recovery is possible for all people, no matter what, and creating a true continuum that doesn’t just leave you in a place where you’re either out on the street not receiving any level of care, or you are in the most restrictive institutional environment possible. We have to have some gray areas in there. And I think that legislators and decision makers and the powers that be truly have a responsibility in helping us build that continuum, help people take steps into recovery. And we know that recovery is not linear. People fall down. Sometimes that’s just a part of the process, but people should have soft and appropriate places to fall down when we do.

Ike Evans More generally Parker, what do you see as the future of state hospitals in Texas?

Parker LaCombe I think one of the really cool things that we see happening in state hospitals really across the country is the implementation of peer support services. I recognize I might be a bit bias in that, but we see the efficacy peer support is in fact in evidence based practice and we see really cool outcomes when we’re plugging in peer support specialist. That happens with people’s own recovery journey. When they see a peer and they see someone and they go, Oh, I identify with you, and if you did it, I think I can too. I have a peer who believes in me, right? That’s another big part of that. But that also means that we have people with lived experience influencing things like policy and procedure and the way that services are delivered inside of the state hospitals. We have people who’ve actually navigated the system who can now come to the table and tell us, Hey, this sounded really good on paper, doesn’t execute so well, and here are where the pitfalls are so that we can build a stronger system. And I feel that in mental health care we are one of the few industries. And in fact, I might even be so bold to say we are the only industry that does not value customer feedback the way that we should, because we’ve had this idea that our customer is too sick to know what they need, to know what they want, and to understand those kinds of concepts. So we haven’t listened to them. And what we do in peer support is we help bridge that gap. We help lift the self-determination of the people that we serve, and we allow them to help guide the treatment. And I think that when used to its full extent, peer services. Says really can and does make a huge difference in the recovery world.

Ike Evans In my time with the Hogg Foundation and to its credit, who has a pretty vigorous policy unit. We have seen peer support go from being a thing that some people do. To a service that you can build for. And it took a lot of, among other things, lobbying and or as Parker just said, you know, showing to key decision makers just how evidence based a practice peer support is to be able to bring about that change. Something is not really real when you’re talking about the health care workforce until it is something that you can bill those who actually pay the bills for it for. I just thought that I would I would add that little bit of context and it’s wonderful to see.

Parker LaCombe Yeah, it’s been a very cool journey. You know, when I first moved to taxes, pure services were not Medicaid billable in this state just yet. And that, of course, changed January 1st of 2019, thanks to House Bill 1486, which was very cool. And it really does say a lot because you’re right, we for a long time viewed peer support as kind of this weird pseudo science that sound a little like Jeopardy debris. And the evidence in the data shows us that is not the case. This is, like you said, as a true evidence based practice. And those things do matter, especially to my clinical counterparts. It’s been very cool to watch the growth in taxes, and I certainly stand on the shoulders of a lot of peer advocates and really grassroots advocates who came before me.

Ike Evans And so you said that recovery has no endpoint. So where are you at in your recovery journey and what advice do you have for those going through similar and what are the things you find yourself needing to do routinely as a form of recovery maintenance?

Intro Oh, I guess.

Parker LaCombe Recovery maintenance, yes, I talk about that a lot, actually. I don’t believe that recovery has an endpoint for me. I think that my journey is I’m always learning and I’m always growing. And as you grow as a person and as your needs change, your coping skills might need to change. For me, my preventative maintenance, I’m a big fitness person I love and then a mixed martial arts has helped me in so many ways to huge part of my recovery. I always view that as if I could tell little Parker something. I would tell her it gets better. Yeah, it sounds cheesy. It sounds like what everyone says, but it gets better. There is so much light and beauty out there and we just have to value ourselves enough to allow ourselves to experience that. And we are worthy of that.

Ike Evans And working with people who are experiencing mental health struggles, they can be at all points along the continuum of recovery and even at a point that seems rather hopeless, as evidenced by, you know, repeated stints in jail or, you know, not being medication compliant. And so I just wonder how you navigate those cases. In fact, there are those who think that, you know, if anything, that our our whole mental health system needs to be tilted more toward that particular kind of case. You know, those are just seem that can’t be helped.

Parker LaCombe Yeah, I think that I can certainly identify with those cases. I think I was someone who it would have been very easy to look at me and give up hope. I saw that a lot in my own personal support system.

Parker LaCombe I also saw.

Parker LaCombe That in the health care providers that were paid to deliver care to me. I really struggled with taking that first step into recovery. And I think that what we have to understand is that change is scary and change is hard, and the devil we know is often more comforting than the one that we don’t. So what I will say is that consistency in believing in people, believing that mental health care recovery can and does happen is huge. We are not always ready for that. We’re not always ready to take that first step. And I was certainly somebody back in the time when I was receiving care. We called me a super utilizar and that meant that I was just essentially in the revolving door that was hospitalization, institutionalization. I maybe left for a couple of weeks. Maybe I made it for a whole month, a couple of times. But inevitably I ended up right back there. And it’s so easy to lose hope in yourself, especially when you see everyone around you giving up on you. In my experience, I think that those are the people who need the most support and the most belief that goes into them. And again, I think that creating a system that truly supports people at all sides on all ends of those spectrums, that’s what’s going to do it for us. That’s what’s going to create places where people truly heal and recover.

Ike Evans And what would have been the turning point, going back to, you know, that moment or moments, if we’re talking about something that happened over a period of time, how much of it was something that you gave to yourself or just figured out on your own, and how much of it was insights or options that you owe to other.

Parker LaCombe It was when I believed I could do it, that I did it. Hospitalizations and institutionalization aren’t necessarily the worst thing. For me personally, it was a safe place to land. It was a place where I was kept safe in some capacity in some regard. But I also think it can have that very negative effect, which tells me I can only be successful in the hypothetical padded room. And I think that when I started to believe in myself and really it was kind of I got fed up with the lifestyle I was living. It’s exhausting. Running from yourself constantly is tiring, and I think I just got tired of feeling tired. And it was that that really got me there. It was having the courage to believe I could do something more and I could do something else, which at that point felt like a crazy radical thought. But I believed in it and I ran with it. And here I am years later. It’s a very cool place to be.

Ike Evans Any aspect of mental health looks different depending on where you are from, who you are, your standpoint. It’s an ongoing and very complicated conversation about all the ways that your identity weaves through your experience as a person with lived experience of mental health. So this is your opportunity just to throw in a little bit more nuance even than we have so far about, you know, being queer or woman of color and how that shapes what it is like being a person with lived experience.

Parker LaCombe Yeah, I think being a person with lived experience is challenging enough and we all have some additional layer of challenge in that. And I think you hit it right on the head where you come from, who raised you, what their beliefs are. One thing I have learned in my own recovery is how much internalized stigma I hold on to, how many beliefs I have that are actually not my own and the beliefs that I was taught. And so I think when we talk about creating equity for people, again, I think that we have to make room for people at the table. We have to hear people from, you know, what is your why, how did you get here in the first place? And for a long time we ignored a lot of those layers. We didn’t talk about things like trauma. We didn’t talk about things like coming from a culture or a family who may not even believe in the concepts of mental illness, which is where I come from and how much of that we take on. And it truly is a disservice to our own recovery. And I think kind of diving into that, there’s a lot of authenticity that has to happen. There’s a lot of vulnerability that has to happen and a lot of really being honest with yourself and deciding, is that what you believe or is that what someone told you you should believe? And I think that the more that we can get to the core of who we are and that love and acceptance of ourselves, that’s how we get stronger.

Ike Evans Okay, So the name of our podcast is Mind of Texas. And so whatever it is that we’ve already been talking about, what about Texas in particular complicates that thing. And so when you’re talking about like being a state hospital inpatient. What would make that a unique experience here in Texas, even if you’re talking about something as mundane as the temperatures here?

Parker LaCombe Yeah. You know, Texas is in pretty close to last place in this country for mental health care. And what that means is our access to mental health care, the funding for mental health care, mental health care workers. We are in the lowest of all of those things. And so I think that one of the biggest challenges I see in Texas with mental health care is the lack of belief in recovery. I don’t think that we have a really strong understanding. And in fact, I think that we have a fundamental misunderstanding of what recovery means. Recovery does not mean that your mental illness goes away or the symptoms from your mental illness go away, or that magically you wake up and all of the trauma that you experienced is gone. It means that you’ve learned how to cope with it differently. I’ve learned how to live with that part of my brain differently, which is why I’m able to live out in the community and have a full time job. And I am a wife and I’m a mom, and I’m a lot of other really great things that I once believed I would not be able to be. And so for me, I think where the biggest challenge comes in is we don’t necessarily understand what recovery means. So we don’t necessarily understand how to deliver services for that particular need. And that is very challenging. We’ve been on the medical model of care for a very long time, which ultimately prioritized what a medical doctor said you needed to do. And now we have this very radical paradigm shift, really that has happened in mental health care, where we are losing the medical model of care and we are leaning more into the recovery and person centered models, but we’re not fully there yet. And so to be an agent of change in that and trying to move that forward can be challenging. This work is very personal to me. And so to come in every single day as an advocate in that and stand strongly firm in my own recovery is a challenge.

Ike Evans So my last question is, are there any resources out there in the community that you would want to refer our listeners to and just things that you’re doing that any of our listeners who might be curious could learn more about or support?

Parker LaCombe Yes, I think there is a very cool and supportive recovery community here in Texas. We often feel that we are the minority, but when we get around other people in recovery, we start to recognize we’re out there. We’re kind of actually all over the place. There are so many free opportunities to join peer support groups, and those groups can look a lot of different ways. There’s virtual there’s hybrid, there’s in-person communities for recovery, NAMI Imagine Art, the Austin Clubhouse. There are lots of organizations that offer free peer support groups, and I encourage people, if you have any level of curiosity, show up to a group. They’re always incredibly welcoming. We’re always excited to have new people. And I’ll tell you, the first group that I went to as an adult outside of inpatient settings where it was entirely my choice to go there, I showed up to the parking lot about four times and then turned around and didn’t make it inside. One time I made it to the front door and then I turned around and didn’t make it. And when I finally made it inside, the facilitator of the group says, Oh, I’ve seen you in the parking lot a couple of times. I’m so excited that you made it inside. It felt like home. I felt so welcome and I felt so accepted and I felt no judgment. So I encourage people, hop on Google, find peer support groups. It’s magic. What can happen there?

Ike Evans I do have a masters in information studies from the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin. And in the six years that I was a grad student, I learned a little bit about preservation, why it matters, and what it means to try to do it well, and what it means to try to do it respectfully. And the institutional realities that bear on each of those questions. And so I was very excited to have the chance to do this episode. Institutions are fragile things, and unless actual resources are allocated to preserving and archiving the things that an institution like Austin State Hospital does, there is always a danger that there will eventually emerge a gap in our understanding of what people did, of what people went through. I have a certain amount of adamancy when it comes to the relationship between memory, historic preservation and our present day resilience and ability to make sense of things. And so I hope between the three people that we had this very rich conversation with today, that you have a better sense of that as well. It’s always the case we can’t lose sight of our own history, and that is as true for mental health as any other important topic. Thanks for listening to Mind of Texas. You can find our full list of episodes at KUT.org or wherever you get your podcasts. Please leave us a rating and review on your preferred podcast player. It really does help. Mind of Texas is a collaboration between KUT 90.5 and the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health. Original Soundtrack by Jaron Marshall. This episode was edited and produced by Jack Anderson for KUT Austin. I’m Mike Evans, communications manager for the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health and host of The Mind of Texas podcast. Thanks for joining us. Hope to have you back soon. See you next time.

This transcript was transcribed by AI, and lightly edited by a human. Accuracy may vary. This text may be revised in the future.