Cherron Harris, Eastern State Hospital

Cherron Harris works at Eastern State Hospital, a recovery-focused, mental health services hospital located in Lexington, Kentucky that provides individualized inpatient acute care. ESH is part of the University of Kentuky’s UK Healthcare System and is a Lex End Homelessness Continuum of Care member. Below, Cherron tells us about her role at the hospital and about the work her and her colleagues do to support patients facing both mental health issues and homelessness. 

1. Tell me a little bit about yourself—personal, professional, or anything else you’d like to share about who you are. 

I am currently Assistant Director of Social Work at Eastern State Hospital (ESH), a state psychiatric hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. I have been a social worker for eight years. 

2. How did you get involved with your current role and/or homelessness advocacy more broadly?

Working in a psychiatric hospital, you encounter homelessness on a daily basis.  A large percentage of the people who ESH serves are experiencing homelessness at time of admission and although they are admitted to our hospital for psychiatric care, our social work teams work hard to help resolve any psychosocial issues and mitigate risk factors when returning our patients to the community.

3. What does a typical day of work look like for you? 

My work is a combination of administrative duties, management, and troubleshooting issues for our social work department. Often, psychosocial issues are brought to me when a patient has a homelessness concern or a barrier to receiving services in the community. I work with our unit social workers in a consultant role to troubleshoot barriers and to try to prevent discharging patients to homeless shelters.

4. Why is the work you do important? What is the value of the work you do? 

The work that I do is important because, according to SAMHSA, an estimated 30% of unhoused people have a mental health condition and 50% struggle with substance use.  ESH values both stabilizing persons psychiatrically and helping to improve their psychosocial situation through referrals, assistance with applying for services, encouraging substance use treatment, applying for financial assistance programs, and a myriad of other ways. This is a population that is often thrown away, generalized, or forgotten. At ESH, we strive to see and treat each person as an individual with the potential for an improved outcome. 

5. What is one thing you wish Lexington community members knew about homelessness? 

I wish Lexingtonians knew that homelessness is pervasive and can affect anyone.  People experiencing homelessness are not lazy, they do not need to try harder, and they are not any different than you or I. Homelessness is a systemic issue and should be addressed as such.

Get involved with LEH by joining the Continuum of Care today. Partnership is free and highly encouraged for any organization or person working in the field of human services. You can also contact one of our many partners to ask about opportunities to get involved. Learn more on our website or by following us on social media @lexendhomelessness.