By Julie B. Maglio
It’s been a little over 18 months since Vincent House Hernando opened their doors in Hernando County. In that time, they have built a successful clubhouse program for the rehabilitation or recovery of individuals who suffer from mental health challenges. The Vincent House motto is “Recovery through Work,” as members are given the tools and support they need to become employed and contribute to their community.
In February, Vincent House Hernando was granted a three year accreditation by Clubhouse International.
This is an important step for the program’s long term sustainability. The Clubhouse International organization includes over 290 local Clubhouses in 32 countries around the world.
The clubhouse model itself has been in practice for over 65 years, beginning with a group of individuals discharged from Rockland State Hospital who sought a way from “patienthood to personhood.” (Propst, 1997) (Peckoff, 1992). This led to the establishment of the first clubhouse in 1948, called ‘Fountain House.’
A 2018 study published in the Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research examined the factors contributing significantly to the sustainability of a clubhouse organization.
The abstract states,
“Clubhouses are recovery centers that help persons with serious mental illness obtain and maintain community-based employment, education, housing, social integration, and other services. Key informants from U.S. clubhouses were interviewed to create a conceptual framework for clubhouse sustainability. Survival analyses tested this model for 261 clubhouses. Clubhouses stayed open significantly longer if they had received full accreditation, had more administrative autonomy, and received funding from multiple rather than sole sources. Cox regression analyses showed that freestanding clubhouses which were accredited endured the longest. Budget size, clubhouse size, and access to managed care did not contribute significantly to sustainability.”
(Gorman, J.A., McKay, C.E., Yates, B.T. et al. Adm Policy Ment Health (2018) 45: 81. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10488-016-0766-x)
Clubhouse International has a research partnership with the University of Massachusetts Medical School in order to “increase the quality and quantity of research on the Clubhouse Model of Psychiatric Rehabilitation.”
Studies have determined several positive trends when the clubhouse model is followed as cited by Clubhouse International:
“Better employment rates, 42% at Accredited Clubhouses annually – double the average rate for people in the public mental health system, plus longer on-the-job tenure for members engaging in Clubhouse Transitional Employment. 1
“Cost effectiveness, one year of holistic recovery services are delivered to Clubhouse members for the same cost as a 2-week stay at a psychiatric hospital. The cost of Clubhouses estimated to be one-third of the cost of the IPS model; about half the annual costs of Community Mental Health Centers; and substantially less than the ACT model. 2
“A significant decrease in hospitalizations as a result of membership in a Clubhouse program.3
“Reduced incarcerations, with criminal justice system involvement substantially diminished during and after Clubhouse psycho-social program membership. 4
“Improved Well-Being compared with individuals receiving psychiatric services without Clubhouse membership. Clubhouse members were significantly more likely to report that they had close friendships and someone they could rely on when they needed help. 5
“Better physical and mental health: a recent study suggests that service systems like Clubhouses that offer ongoing social supports enhance mental and physical health by reducing disconnectedness. 6
“Sources: 1 Macias, Kinney and Rodican (1995). 2 McKay, Yates, and Johnsen (2005); IPS model reported by Clark et al (1998); ACT model reported by Macias et al (2001). 3 De Masso, Avi-Itzak and Obler (2001). 4 Johnson and Hickey (1999). 5 Warner, Huxley and Berg (1999). 6 Leff and colleagues (2004).”
In February, Vincent House Hernando’s average daily attendance was 18 individuals. Every month attendance has increased slightly. Sixteen clubhouse members are currently working.
A Clubhouse International benchmark is for 50% of the club’s average daily attendance to be employed. With 16 out of 18 individuals employed, Vincent House Hernando has greatly surpassed the threshold.
Current employers include:
- Contractor’s Institute
- Pasco Hernando Career Source
- Hernando County Public Defender’s Office
- Pasco Housing Authority
Vincent House Hernando recently started two new transitional employment (TE) positions through Pasco Hernando Career Source and the Pasco Housing Authority. The Housing Authority positions include office assistant and groundskeeping for Hudson Hills, while the Pasco Hernando Career Source position is 16 hours a week at their call center.
In the clubhouse model, members are involved in the business aspects of the club. Clubhouse members take part in the interview process for Vincent House Hernando employees. They’ve most recently hired a part time driver/rehabilitation specialist. Jennifer DosSantos, Vincent House Hernando Program Director, stated other responsibilities include,
“Everything from cleaning, gardening, food preparation and service, retail sales, community development, budget management, and banking. Also computer work such as database entry, newsletter publication, managing social media. Members and staff work side by side on all the work at Vincent House. There are no member only or staff only jobs.”
Vincent House Hernando plays a role in member education, partnering with Hernando County Adult Education and Pasco Hernando State College. They also have in house tutoring programs in GED, computer skills and literacy.
Clubhouse International visited Vincent House Hernando in January of this year for the quality accreditation evaluation. They were informed in February that a 3 year accreditation has been granted. That is the highest level of accreditation. The ‘gold standard’ as described by DosSantos.
“It allows us to be a part of the International Clubhouse community. They have a lot of training opportunities for staff and members,” remarked DosSantos.
Vincent House Hernando Advisory Board Member Ann Marquis explained, “This is an important distinction when you go for grant money and you show that you are accredited. It also helps in attracting new members.”
DosSantos further added, “It definitely helps with grants. Clubhouse International is an evidence based practice, studied on the federal level through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. They have given it their seal of approval- that this is evidence based.”
DosSantos is currently working on a grant through the United Way and an audit; both of which specifically ask which evidence based practice they are following. DosSantos explained that some states are now requiring it now for funding, like Michigan and Ohio.
The idea is, “If we are going to fund you, we want to fund quality,” said DosSantos.
Ann Marquis said of the Clubhouse International visit, “They were totally blown away by Vincent House Hernando. It’s only 18 months old. I give a lot of credit to Jen (DosSantos), but I really have to give a lot of credit to Dianne and Elliott because they were the ones that knew what it needed to be. They are going to leave behind an incredible legacy.”
Dianne and Elliott Steele, co-founded Vincent House in Pinellas County in 2003 and the Pinellas clubhouse is a model for ours here in Hernando.
However, it was Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative that saw a need in their service area for additional mental health resources. WREC recruited the assistance of the Steeles to get a clubhouse off the ground in Hernando County.
“We believe it’s our responsibility to do whatever we can do to improve the quality of life of the people we serve and this is one way we can do that,” said Billy E. Brown, WREC CEO.
Mr. Brown described the prominence of mental illness in our area, particularly affecting retirees and individuals living in rural communities.
David Lambert, WREC Member Relations manager, recently served as NAMI Hernando President. Lambert was asked by a NAMI graduate about resources available to help her go back to work, but he couldn’t point to any available in Hernando County. Lambert consulted Senator Bill Nelson. Nelson told him about the Pinellas Park based Vincent House.
Vincent House Hernando continues to speak with anyone that will listen. They regularly hold employment dinners and describe the program at Springbrook, PHSC and Baycare.
A solid handful of members have now written down their stories and rehearsed telling their stories. Specific members are chosen to speak at a certain events.
“It’s good when you hear stories. I think that means a lot. I’m glad to hear there are people willing to tell their story,” said Ann Marquis.
A Vincent House Hernando member recently wrote, “Mental illness can be difficult to deal with, without family and friends. Vincent House gives me purpose to come to work and socialize with fellow members and staff.”
Outreach is crucial to gaining new members, employers as well as donors.
A Vincent House Hernando Luncheon of Dreams fundraiser is in the planning stages. It will be a way to say thank you to donors and procure additional supporters in the community by showing them what is possible. The Hernando Sun will provide additional information on the Luncheon of Dreams, once plans are finalized.
Vincent House Hernando currently leases a space at the Forest Oaks government plaza, but they would like to be able to construct or purchase their own building in the near future. Hernando County donated 7 acres of property to the National Alliance of Mental Illness Hernando in 2016 as a future location for Vincent House.
There are also efforts underway to bring Vincent House clubhouses to Citrus and Pasco Counties.
A Vincent House Pasco County facility is very close to the construction phase with permitting and architectural plans submitted. Groundbreaking will be scheduled after the 2019 legislative session. $1 million in state funding is helping with the construction of the Pasco facility. Other funding comes from Pasco County Community Development, General Electric and other entities.
Senator Simpson is sponsoring a $1 million appropriations request for a Citrus facility for fiscal year 2019-2020. The request states, “Vincent House Citrus, if funded, anticipated opening would be late 2020.” They would be constructing a 5000-6000 square foot facility.
The prospect for expansion of Vincent House clubhouses into Citrus and Pasco is a boon for the Gulf Coast, especially if each of the new locations are as successful as Vincent House Pinellas. The Citrus appropriation request cites, “Vincent House Pinellas has a proven track record since 2003 and the Recovery through Work model there has resulted in the members earning more than $6 million in real wages at real jobs in the community.”