Group wants to bring Clubhouse model to adults in Summit County
Lynne Rutan and her husband, Ed Rutan, became advocates for those suffering from mental health challenges and substance abuse after watching their son struggle with schizoaffective disorder for much of his adult life.
The Rutans experienced firsthand the difficulties of navigating the mental health care system and accessing services, many of which weren’t available in Summit County.
After co-founding the nonprofit CONNECT Summit County with other residents who were similarly entrenched in the same battle with their loved ones, they began identifying the community’s needs and working to address them with the help of Summit County’s Mental Wellness Alliance. The organizations now work together to address mental health issues in the county, including providing education and access to services.
The latest service CONNECT and the Mental Wellness Alliance are hoping to bring to the county is an internationally recognized program known as the Clubhouse model. The program was established more than 60 years ago by a group of people in New York who struggled with mental illness and were unable to secure employment.
The Clubhouse provides a location where adults can go to learn job and rehabilitative skills to help them reintegrate into the community, acting as a hub for people to find support and encouragement.
“They had been released from mental institutions and didn’t have anything to do,” Lynne Rutan said. “The reason it is so powerful is because the person with mental illness is a member of the Clubhouse and by running it they learn job skills and are able to build a community. Isolation is one of the most difficult things to deal with for a person with mental illness.”
Similar programs exist in Wasatch and Salt Lake counties, but are noticeably absent from Summit County, Rutan said. CONNECT and the Mental Wellness Alliance are hoping to establish an operation specific to the county’s needs with the help of Clubhouse International and Salt Lake City’s Clubhouse, the Alliance House.
“It is a program that would provide services to someone like our adult son who needs the support, the community and pre-employment skills,” Rutan said.
Clubhouse members act as volunteers, but are responsible for organizing the facility’s activities and programs. Rutan envisions establishing relationships with the business community to organize job opportunities for members who are prepared to enter the work force.
“I think it will fill a huge gap in this community,” Rutan said. “We have moved ahead with services for kids, but the adults with severe and persistent mental illness, particularly, there is still a gap in services.”
CONNECT and the Mental Wellness Alliance have been working closely with the Christian Center of Park City to secure a space for the Clubhouse. Construction began in 2016 to expand and renovate the center’s building. It is expected to be complete in September.
Pete Stoughton, director of programs for the Christian Center, said the administrative staff at the center is excited to support an initiative that would establish a Clubhouse in the county. He said the new building may be an appropriate location to house the program.
“There is definitely a need for this and the collaborative approach will be really important to making this happen,” he said.
Aaron Newman, Summit County Health Department’s mental health and substance abuse coordinator, said the need for a service similar to the one provided through the Clubhouse was identified in a strategic plan that the county created. The plan details programs and services that need to be implemented.
“What is important about this is it’s been an identified need from the beginning,” he said. “One of our primary goals is to focus on the reintegration of individuals and this fits that perfectly.”
Newman said the Christian Center has “really stepped up to the plate to provide that backbone support.” He added, “That is really the big key.”
With the potential of housing the Clubhouse in the Christian Center’s new building, Newman said securing additional funding to establish the program would still require multiple sources. But, the model does qualify for Medicaid.
To introduce the purpose of the program to the community, CONNECT and the Mental Wellness Alliance are hosting an informational meeting Wednesday, June 20, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the Summit County Health Department. CONNECT and the Mental Wellness Alliance will be recruiting people to form a startup group. Jack Yatsko, chief operating officer of Clubhouse International, and representatives from the Alliance House are expected to attend.
“To start off, it would need to be a community coalition,” Newman said. “We are looking to form this group to help with planning. There can’t be just one entity trying to make this happen to meet the best needs of the community.”
Anyone interested in attending the meeting is asked to reserve their spot with Lynne Rutan by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. The meeting will also be remotely accessible.
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