ViewPoints by Laura Hoffmeister: Concord’s Putnam Clubhouse works quietly, successfully


Putnam Clubhouse Home

This past week I had the honor to attend the Putnam Clubhouse 10th anniversary. What is the Putnam Clubhouse?  The Concord nonprofit provides programs and support services in a welcoming community day environment where adults recovering from mental illness come to rebuild their lives.

Why is this important? Approximately one in five adults in the United States, or 20 percent, experiences mental illness in a given year. Mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions — disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior.

Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviors. An estimated 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.

More women are affected by depression than men. It is unfortunate that there is still stigma of mental health issues. Mental illness is no different than many other illnesses that are diseases, such as alcoholism, drug dependency or heart disease. It is treatable and manageable with the right support services and programs such as those provided by Putnam Clubhouse, one of many unsung hero organizations in Concord.

Putnam Clubhouse was spearheaded by longtime mental health advocate Herb Putnam and other community supporters. Operated by Contra Costa Clubhouses, Inc., Putnam Clubhouse offers peer support and vocational rehabilitation intervention for people living with mental illness.

Clubhouse participants, called members, share ownership and responsibility for the success of the organization. Participation is voluntary, at no cost to members, and provides a safe and welcoming place where members work on personal strengths instead of focusing on illness.

The underlying premise is that each member can sufficiently recover from the effects of mental illness to lead a personally satisfying and productive life. Members work in partnership with their peers and a small trained staff, building on personal strengths, rebuilding their lives through access to paid employment, education, health and recreational programming, purposeful work at the clubhouse, and friendship.

Members are encouraged to set personal goals for education and employment. They are then assisted in achieving their career goals by completing high school, attending college, or finding a paid job.

The clubhouse provides a variety of structured activities for career development. It also enables members to return to paid work through transitional employment and independent employment, and they are encouraged to build on their strengths and to learn new skills.

Members join one of the Clubhouse’s three work units:

* CAM — Career, administration, and multimedia

* Hospitality Unit

* VERDE — Vocational, education, retail, development and enrichment, which is responsible for career and education services and programming.

Young adults (ages 18-35) are welcome at Putnam Clubhouse and are the most rapidly increasing participant age group. They are present in every unit, take part in all program activities, and have the same opportunities that older adult members receive — from education and employment to outreach and peer support.

While touring and learning about this quiet resource in our community, I was provided with a member story that I thought I would share with you.

“Jake” was homeless when he first started attending the program and the clubhouse assisted him finding housing, and he has been able to live independently in an apartment. When he joined the clubhouse, he’d been unemployed for about a dozen years and spent most of his time on the street panhandling. The clubhouse helped him find a job and he’s proud to have been working for over a year.

The clubhouse is where he goes to rebuild a meaningful and productive life while recovering from his mental illness. It has supported him every step of the way. His recovery also was supported by being involved in productive work and from building positive relationships at the clubhouse; helped his confidence, listening, understanding and a sense of belonging, and providing hope that he can be a productive member of society.

Thanks to the success of the clubhouse fundraising and its member-created show called “There’s No Place Like Hope,” more people are being helped in our community.

The collaboration of members, staff and volunteer board of directors, programs and services help those in our community with mental illness improve their well-being and independence, keep them out of the hospital and help and support them to resume their education and find or retain paid employment.

Community donations and those from John Muir Health, the Community Services Bureau of Contra Costa County and the Mental Health Services Act in partnership with Contra Costa Mental Health has allowed for further program expansion, including the addition of evening and weekend activities and peer-to-peer home visits.

As part of an overall effort to educate the public, the Putnam Clubhouse will once again be conducting community engagement and outreach with the Sweep Away Stigma Day as part of Earth Day.

The members, along with council members and other community members and organizations will be cleaning up, sweeping away the stigma by sweeping and picking up trash and litter along some of our roads. Last year the members picked up along Monument Boulevard.

I look forward to joining them again this year to help Sweep Away Stigma Day on Saturday, April 22, and at the same time beautify a bit of our community. If you would like to learn more about Putnam Clubhouse or donate, visit

Laura Hoffmeister is the mayor of Concord. Contact her at