Clubhouses

Local nonprofit called a model for Texas cities

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SAN ANTONIO – At a time when there’s not enough funding to help people with mental health conditions, San Antonio is now being called a model for the rest of Texas.

The San Antonio Clubhouse on the city’s northwest side is a place where this underserved population can learn how to live independent lives.

San Antonio used to be home to the only Clubhouse in South Texas. Now, three are on board in the Rio Grande Valley. Representatives from there are in town this week to learn how it’s done.

“What else can we get you?” Marie Garza says while working at the snack bar inside the Clubhouse.

You’ll often find her serving snacks with a smile.

“I got so much help here when I first started I just like giving back what I’ve attained,” Garza says.

She remembers life before joining the Clubhouse.

“Struggling just to get out of bed,” Garza says. “Being heavily medicated.”

Now, she’s learned to manage her bipolar disorder.

“It’s a very team-oriented, family-style environment here,” Garza says.

Hildebrando Mireles, a licensed professional counselor, is hoping replicate that atmosphere in the Valley.

“There’s a sense of family here,” he says.

Mireles runs centers in Edinburg, Harlingen and Brownsville that plan to adopt the Clubhouse model.

“Allowing the members to have full participation in the decision-making process,” he says.

He says if you look around the building, you can’t tell who’s a member and who’s on staff. Everyone has a job to do, from cooking and planning events to helping in the computer lab.

“It inspires and it creates motivation and it creates the skill to really break that stigma,” Mireles says.

One example of breaking the stigma: in the past few weeks, the Clubhouse helped eight members find jobs.

“So that’s really showing success and that’s a motivation for us to hear,” Mireles says.

From her perch at the snack bar, Garza’s grateful to share what she’s learned with our neighbors to the south.

“You can just feel the heart and soul of the Clubhouse when you’re in it. You really can,” she says.

Garza says with limited funds available for mental health programs, proving the Clubhouse model works will help make the case for more money when the state legislature meets in January.

By EMILY BAUCUM