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Connect Summit County Meets With Community Leaders About A New Program - Clubhouse


Connect Summit County is in the beginning stages of bringing a clubhouse to town that would provide training for residents with mental illness. Melissa Allison brings us the story:

According to the World Health Organization, every day, more than 2,000 people commit suicide around the world. Ninety percent of those are related to mental illness.

Clubhouse International has 12 international training locations that serve 293 clubhouses in 32 countries -- and that number continues to grow.

One of the training facilities is located in Salt Lake City.

The clubhouses provide pre-employment and psychosocial rehabilitation services for people with mental illness.

Connect Summit County Board of Director Member Lynne Rutan organized a community meeting this week to introduce Summit County to the Clubhouse idea. She says she knows firsthand about the gap in employment training and social service support for people who deal with mental illness and substance abuse.

“Our own 35 year old son has been hospitalized for nearly a year with severe mental illness," Rutan said. "He’s worked so hard to learn to live with his disease and he’s really looking forward to coming back to this community. It’s the town he loves and it’s his home. But, unfortunately, we’re very concerned about him living his dream . At this time our community doesn’t really provide services he will need.”

Rutan has been looking into Clubhouse International for about two years and says it provides services not typical of other programs.

Alliance House is an affiliate of Clubhouse International.  Assistant Director Amber Mackay says Clubhouse helps their members get back to their lives before they became ill.

“They’ll walk in the door, they’ll have been told they can never work again, finish school, they can’t really be functional members of the community and we kind of, we don’t agree with that because we’ve seen so many members succeed. We actively help members to gain social and vocational skills so they can work toward employment. We have a lot of members who are working toward higher levels of education or training programs.”

The program focuses on education, employment, safe and affordable housing and then health and wellness.

Mackay said the clubhouse keeps their members engaged by helping them to feel useful.

“In doing so, like making lunch for the day or paying the bills for the clubhouse, they are gaining valuable skills," Mackay said. "They have a place to go to everyday, they have a place where they can go and not isolate at home. They have a community of support that, in some cases for some members it is quite literally their family.”

Richard, who didn’t share his last name, has been a member of the Alliance House for about two years. After two industrial accidents that left his left side paralyzed and scalded his face – he was fired and his insurance was cancelled.

In the eight years since the accidents, he’s had 17 surgeries and sank into depression.

Richard’s therapist told him, after he’d tried to take his own life, more than once, he needed to do some volunteer work.

Richard wasn’t sure how he could, given his condition.

“I met a former staff member of the Alliance House and told me about it and asked me to come in and volunteer over there," Richard said. "And, I came and the first day I started hearing stories from other members about isolation and, you know I just kind of felt that day I was like, ‘I’m not alone, this is people just like me.’ Even though there was people with schizophrenia and things like that, I relate to them so much.”

Mackay told the audience that there was more to Richard than he let on.

“Members know how empathetic Richard is," Mackay said. "They’ll call him when they need someone to talk to, when they’re having a lot of trouble, when they’re thinking about maybe ending their lives. And they know that he will call them, he will go grab them for a drink, he will go to their home, like this is countless times Richard has done this. So, I think certified peer support specialist or social worker or something is absolutely up Richards’s alley. And now in two weeks he’s going to travel back east to another training base in western Massachusetts and be trained himself so he can continue to come back and support Alliance House and support other clubhouses. He’s just an amazing member and he hates it when we dote on him, but I’m really honored to work with him. He’s the perfect example of someone who needed Alliance House, but we needed him too and that’s what Clubhouse is.”

[Richard] “It gave me a purpose and gives me something I’m proud of.”

[Mackay] “We’re proud of you.”

Mackay said about 50 percent of their funding comes from Medicaid and the other half comes from fundraising. While they don’t turn anyone away, she says they do require a referral from an organization. It could be anyone from a doctor to their workforce services handler.

After the presentation – Rutan had one more piece of information to share.

“We need a lot of basic information before we can decide what the clubhouse will look like in Summit County," Rutan said. "And so, we are trying to bring together a startup group. We hope that it would be a core group of six to eight people and then other people supporting as they can.”

KPCW asked Mackay what the biggest hurdle was for a community to get a clubhouse up and running.

She called it, “Not in my backyard.”

"A lot of the residents will say, ‘No, no, no. I don’t want mentally ill people in my backyard,’" Mackay said. "And so there’s a lot of clubhouses where, I actually went to one where they were actively protesting against getting a clubhouse set up in Greenville, south Carolina. And what ended up happening is that the people who were actively protesting it, they had a son who was schizophrenic. He wasn’t schizophrenic at the time, but he became schizophrenic later and they went, ‘Uh, oh – we actually need that’ and they became the best advocates for the clubhouse. People just don’t understand how wonderful this can be for their community.”

For more information visit connectsummitcounty.org.

I’m Melissa Allison, KPCW News.

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