Clubhouse program for residents with mental illness readies for summer launch
In some ways, the Summit County chapter of the Clubhouse International program is starting with modest ambitions.
For instance, the Clubhouse plans to begin with four or five members, and it will operate three days a week out of the Christian Center of Park City until it can find a permanent home.
But the mission of the nonprofit, which is aiming for a July 1 kickoff after months of preparations, is anything but small, according to Lynne Rutan, a member of the Clubhouse’s board. It seeks to provide a community for residents with mental illnesses, offering them a place to interact with peers and the opportunity to gain life skills necessary to thrive in society.
The importance of that for people with mental illness is difficult to overstate, Rutan said.
“One of the most serious repercussions of mental illness is isolation,” she said. “Clubhouse has been proven to reduce and minimize hospitalization, incarceration and homelessness, and those are the evidence-based findings.”
Organizers of the Clubhouse have spent the last 10 months securing nonprofit status and raising $91,000 to fund the program’s first year, said Sally Jablon, board president. That leaves just a few remaining hurdles, such as hiring an executive director and recruiting members, before the organization can open its doors.
The nonprofit is looking for at least two additional members to start with, as two people have already committed to joining the Clubhouse. Membership is free, with the only requirements being that a person is at least 18 years old with a history of mental illness and presents no safety risk.
“That’s huge, to get someone to stand up and say, ‘I have a mental illness and I want to be a member,’” Jablon said.
In the Clubhouse model, members will find a resource unlike anything that exists in Summit County, Jablon said. The primary role of membership is the act of running the Clubhouse itself. Members perform tasks each day ranging from mopping the floor to bookkeeping to planning group activities.
The responsibility that comes with membership — and camaraderie of doing it with others — gives members a sense of purpose, structure and self-worth that is vital in helping people with mental illness find their place in society, Rutan said.
“Probably among the jobs that the members and staff will work on first is getting the word out about the Clubhouse,” she said. “It’s their Clubhouse, and they learn social skills, they learn leadership skills by going out into the community and talking about the program.”
As well as operating the Clubhouse, members will have the opportunity to attain part-time employment. That part of the program is unique, Jablon said, in that a staffer undergoes job training alongside members.
“If for whatever reason the member who is assigned to that job can’t make it on a day, the staff member goes so that the member does not lose their job and the employer is not left without a worker for that day,” she said.
Rutan said the ultimate goal of the program is to give members a boost as they integrate into society. She added the Clubhouse is not a treatment center and is not intended to compete with service providers in Summit County.
“Once a member, you are always a member because mental illness is a chronic disease,” Rutan said. “We hope that this is a launching pad, not a landing strip. It is a foundation. … But it’s always there for them if they need to come back and reboot.”
The Summit County Clubhouse is scheduled to host an informational lunch Wednesday, May 15, from noon to 1 p.m. at the Christian Center. For more information about the nonprofit, visit summitcountyclubhouse.org.
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