The County provides start-up grant to create a "Clubhouse Model" for adults with a serious mental illness
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Members and staff enjoy a moment together at the California Clubhouse, which provides adults with a serious mental illness a place to work on their well being.
Preparing healthy meals is an important part of the day at the California Clubhouse.
Juliana Fuerbringer's dreamed of providing a safe and caring place for adults with a mental illness after her son was diagnosed with a mental illness while in college.
Origami cranes, displayed on a Clubhouse table, are symbols of healing, independence and happiness.
Amaal can often be found calling fellow Clubhouse members to invite them to events and to let them know they have supportive friends.
For a very long time, Agnes descended into a very dark place. She stopped talking to friends, isolated herself, watched television endlessly, shut down. “Life was hell.”
Her sister introduced her to California Clubhouse, a free and voluntary membership organization for adults living with a serious mental illness. Nothing changed at first. But Agnes continued to visit and, slowly, revived.
“I gained my confidence back,” she said recently as many in a crowd dabbed at tears in their eyes. “I’m very grateful.”
Agnes shared her experiences during the California Clubhouse's grand opening celebration in San Mateo. She and approximately 50 other San Mateo County residents now benefit from the Clubhouse thanks to a one-time $115,000 "start-up" grant from the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. The Board provided the funding from Measure A, a half-cent countywide sales tax passed by voters in 2012.
(Editor's note: Voters extended the sales tax for an additional 20 years in a proposition listed as Measure K on the November 2016 ballot.)
"The California Clubhouse gives respect and dignity to people who suffer from mental illness by providing them with a welcoming environment, job responsibilities, and social impact," said San Mateo County Supervisor Carole Groom. "They are able to experience real purpose in their lives and normal functioning, every day. I am delighted that we were able to locate this dedicated facility for them in San Mateo."
The Clubhouse is for adults diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder -- a referral from a mental health professional is required.
It is not a clinical or treatment program. The Clubhouse is designed to support member's psychiatric stability by providing a safe and caring environment coupled with opportunities for education, socializing and meaningful work.
Nearly 1 in 25 adults live with a serious mental illness
"We accept each other, we praise each other when we have a success and we are here for the good times and the difficult times,” said Erica Horn, the executive director.
“Many people suffering from mental illness lose any sense of hope, confidence and motivation,” she said, adding that with membership comes "responsibility, accountability and opportunity."
Juliana Fuerbringer, whose adult son was diagnosed with schizophrenia while in college, was one of the key organizers who introduced the Board to the clubhouse model. That model is based on Fountain House, which opened in New York in 1948 as a support system for adults with mental illness.
Fuerbringer said the Board's start-up grant gave their effort legitimacy when they contacted private donors for additional support. Moving forward, the Clubhouse will be funded by the Mental Health Services Act (Proposition 63), private grants and donations and other sources.
“We are very excited about the Measure A funding,” Fuerbringer said. “We are lucky to live in an enlightened county where our leaders recognize this critical need.”
Research on the Clubhouse model has shown that members experience improved well-being
Amaal, 25, said that before joining the Clubhouse he had little to do during the day. Now he spends a few days a week at the Clubhouse. He can often be found on the phone calling fellow members to let them know about upcoming events, like field trips to Monterey Bay, and, perhaps most important, remind them they have friends who care.
Why does he come back? “The sense of productivity.”
San Mateo County Supervisor Warren Slocum and Stephen Kaplan, Director of the County’s Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, attended the open house. Kaplan said the Clubhouse strengthens the county's network of care by helping to break the isolation felt by so many adults coping with mental illness. The Clubhouse "makes every day meaningful," he said.
Slocum listened to stories from members before he addressed the crowd.
"I think the magic of the place and the work that you do,” he said, “is that you change lives.”
Published in April 2016.
Notes: The California Clubhouse has relocated to a new space in San Carlos. This article was updated on Dec. 28, 2016, to reflect that voters extended the sales tax for an additional 20 years in a proposition listed as Measure K on the November 2016 ballot.
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Mental Illness by the Numbers
Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year.
1.1% of adults in the U.S. live with schizophrenia.
2.6% of adults in the U.S. live with bipolar disorder.
6.9% of adults in the U.S.—16 million—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.
18.1% of adults in the U.S. experienced an anxiety disorder such as posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias.
An estimated 26% of homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness and an estimated 46% live with severe mental illness and/or substance use disorders.
Approximately 20% of state prisoners and 21% of local jail prisoners have “a recent history” of a mental health condition.