It’s a place of hope for a bright future.
It’s place of unity where staff and members work together for one common goal — independence.
It’s a place of opportunity.
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting this unique place in Kendallville, and each time I do I come away impressed by the surroundings and the people.
The Northeastern Center’s New Hope Clubhouse recently held an event to celebrate accreditation from Clubhouse International. Currently there are more than 320 accredited clubhouses in 34 countries with more than 100,000 members. There are eight clubhouses in Indiana and only three are accredited.
New Hope Clubhouse has approximately 100 members from the Northeastern Center’s service area of Noble, LaGrange, DeKalb and Steuben counties. Members have been diagnosed with a mental illness. In the clubhouse environment in a building at 704 S. Lincoln St. they learn and become re-acquainted with the life skills and work skills they need to live independent lives.
Members use the Northeastern Center’s transportation system to attend clubhouse activities Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Bambi Lehman was been director for more than 15 years.
Getting accreditation means the New Hope Clubhouse must strive to meet all 36 standards of Clubhouse International, according to Michael Steigmeyer, Northeastern Center’s public relations coordinator.
According to Clubhouse Indiana, clubhouses are a powerful demonstration of the fact that people with mental illness can and do lead normal, productive lives. Clubhouses provide members with opportunities to build long-term relationships that support them in obtaining employment, education and housing.
Clubhouse participants are called “members” as opposed to “patients” or “clients,” and activities focus on their strengths and abilities. Staff are not therapists or psychiatrists. The day treatment program promotes recovery from mental illness through work and meaningful relationships.
“Community” is the best word to describe New Hope Clubhouse. Each day the building is humming with activity like an active community. Work units include clerical, financial, food services, outreach, education, employment and advocacy. A bank operates in one area where members learn how to manage their money, pay bills and make a budget.
Computer stations are available to members to reach out to other members.
In the food services area, members operate a restaurant and snack bar. They choose the menu, prepare and cook the food, serve customers and do the cleanup.
Clubhouse members clean and maintain the building, and produce a newsletter.
Each work unit has specific and manageable tasks. Members meet with staff daily and weekly to decide on work assignments.
Members can work toward a High School Equivalency (HSE) degree or college degree in the education unit.
The clubhouse has transitional employment, support employment and individual employment levels. Members have opportunities to hold a short-term, part-time job in the community. They can build a resume and form good work habits.
The clubhouse program is a cost-effective way of helping people with chronic mental illness who otherwise may have been directed to more expensive inpatient facilities and state hospitals, said Steigmeyer.
Clubhouse member J. Short said: “Clubhouse is more than learning daily tasks, it’s the smiling faces you see, friends you make and the great companionship that is created through the bonds that are made.”
When the state in 2010 changed the way mental health treatment in the clubhouse program is reimbursed through Medicaid, it cut access to millions of dollars in funds for the clubhouses. Many regional mental health centers in Indiana closed their clubhouse programs.
Northeastern Center administrators valued their New Hope Clubhouse so much, the center financially supported the program despite the loss of funding. Center staff and clubhouse members joined with others around the state to lobby for support.
Gov. Mike Pence’s administration agreed to change a simple code requirement and support for accredited clubhouse model treatment. Changes occurred in the Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA), and a psychiatrist was named FSSA secretary. Funding was restored.
“Accreditation means we are helping to bring about a world where people living with mental illness everywhere can experience the respect, hope and opportunities found at clubhouses,” said Short.
To schedule a tour of New Hope Clubhouse or learn more about transitional and supported employment, call 347-2454.
Dennis Nartker is a reporter for The News Sun. He can be reached at dnartker@kpcme dia.com.