A Clubhouse where the mentally ill thrive

Heidi Graff is Progress House executive director.
Heidi Graff is Progress House executive director.

The tragic Venn diagram of mental illness, incarceration, and homelessness has been featured in various front page articles in The News Tribune recently.

Washington state is settling, at last, an expensive lawsuit brought by folks at the harsh intersection of those hardships, and legislators promise to prioritize mental health initiatives in the 2019 Legislature.

Citizens and taxpayers can hope that things will get better from here and feel assured that Gov. Jay Inslee and the Department of Social and Health Services are doing all they can to develop resources for the growing number of people in Washington facing the challenge of mental illness.

This is crucial work, since one in four people will experience a mental illness in their lifetimes, and this disease is on track to become the leading cause of disability worldwide by 2020.

This is also why it’s so important for citizen-taxpayers to be aware of another, more cost-effective and proactive approach that’s also under development, thanks to the work of our Legislature.

They’re called Clubhouses, and they offer voluntary, member-driven, psychosocial rehabilitation programs for adults who experience the challenges of mental illness.

Within a supportive environment, program participants (members) are offered a variety of services that improve the quality of their lives. Through meaningful work, positive relationships and gainful employment, members can build on their strengths and abilities to acquire or improve skills they need to reach individual goals and aspirations.

Each day at a Clubhouse is structured around the mutual participation of members and staff working side by side. This “Work Ordered Day” allows members to be part of an environment of mutual respect. This has been proven to heal by enhancing self worth, building social skills, increasing self-esteem and providing a sense of community.

Clubhouses encourage participation in the Work Ordered Day to enable members to enjoy contributing toward a shared goal while gaining insight about their own capabilities.

The process of running the Clubhouse, the product – the healing – happens person by person. As a result, members can, once again, imagine themselves as part of their broader communities.

A large percentage of members return to paid employment through Clubhouse’s Transitional-or Supported-Employment program, and re-hospitalization is cut dramatically.

Healing plus earning money is a win for members and taxpayers!

Clubhouses are healing centers that work to prevent mental illness from reaching a crisis point, and they’re already providing evidence-based, recovery-model care in Seattle, Bellevue and Spokane.

New Clubhouses are in development for Pierce, Yakima and Kitsap counties, and they need all the support they can get. But first people have to know about them.

To find out more about Pierce County’s new Clubhouse-in-development, including how you can participate, please come to our ‘What’s a Clubhouse?’ event on Feb. 5 at 5:30 p.m. at the Moore branch of the Tacoma Public Library.

It’s sponsored by the Progress House Association, which has worked for almost 50 years with people who are transitioning from difficult situations to constructive community engagement.

Details and information are available on Facebook via the Progress Clubhouse Planning Group page, or by calling us at (253) 593-2845, ext. 226, or at (831) 332-8665.

Heidi Graff is executive director of the Progress House Association in Tacoma. Peach McDouall is the organization’s planning partner.