The Origin of Fountain House

Fountain House traces its roots to the late 1940s at Rockland State Hospital in Orangeburg, New York. Six patients formed a group that met in a hospital “club room” where they shared their stories, read, painted and participated in social functions. Soon after leaving Rockland, they joined together to re-create the respectful and supportive group they had formed in the hospital, meeting on the steps of the New York Public Library. All believed they could offer each other support in life’s challenges and sustain their social community. They hoped that their successful recovery would gradually change society’s perception of people living with mental illness, leading to broader understanding and a reduction in stigma. 

The group they formed, “We Are Not Alone,” speaks to what remains the central problem for people living with serious mental illness today- social isolation. In 1948, with help from their supporters, they bought a building in New York City. The fountain that adorned the “Clubhouse” garden at West 47th street represented both hope and rejuvenation and inspired the name “Fountain House.” 



In November 2018, Fountain House hosted a first-of-its-kind international conference, Healthier Longer Lives for People with Serious Mental Illness, in partnership with World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Global Mental Health at Columbia University Medical CenterGrand Challenges Canada and citiesRISE, with technical support from the World Health Organization.  The idea for the conference emerged from Fountain House's multi-year partnership with WHO to address the crisis of excess mortality in people with serious mental illness.  At the convening, WHO guidelines produced through the collaboration entitled, Management of physical health conditions in adults with severe mental disorders, were released.  

Healthier Longer Lives was attended by over 300 scientists, practitioners, policymakers and philanthropists from more than 30 countries. The convening showcased innovations from around the world improving the health of people with serious mental illness; presented new scientific advances; raised awareness of effective interventions; engaged partners in other fields; and created a space to inspire investment in and implementation of best practices.


Fountain House College Re-Entry opens its doors at 437 West 47th Street to help students that have discontinued their college plans due to mental health obstacles. 


Fountain House/Clubhouse International are awarded the Hilton Humanitarian Prize.


With 1,300 members, Fountain House celebrates its 60th Anniversary.


The Sidney R. Baer Center for Education is dedicated.


Peter B. Lewis donates $3 million to Fountain House for construction of a Wellness Unit. The new Horticulture Unit is dedicated, due in part to a generous contribution from the Slocum family.


Fountain Gallery opens.


The Storefront, an off-site office where members can receive psychiatric and primary medical care, opens in partnership with St. Lukes/Roosevelt Medical Center.


The four brownstones next to Fountain House are renovated and dedicated as the van Ameringen Center. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan attends the dedication.


Fountain House opens the residence at 441 West 47th Street. It is the first HUD-funded mental health residence in the country.


The 1st International Seminar for organizations that want to learn about, or who are already practicing, the Fountain House model is held in Lahore, Pakistan, organized by Dr. M. R. Chaudry.


High Point Farm, a 500-acre farm in northwestern New Jersey, is willed to Fountain House by Karl Keller, a former treasurer of the board of directors. The Farm allows members the opportunity to work in a rural environment, tending to our gardens and alpacas.


Fountain House is awarded a multi-year grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to establish a national training program to teach the clubhouse model to community based organizations.


Arnold van Ameringen becomes President of the Board of Directors; shortly thereafter the van Ameringen Foundation donates $300,000 toward the cost of a new building. 425 West 47th Street is purchased and dedicated. The new building is completed in 1965.


The National Institute of Mental Health awards Fountain House a grant, for a two-year research study comparing people accepted into its program with people denied Fountain House services. Results of the study show a 30% reduction in re-hospitalization of Fountain House members.


Initial guidelines for the Employment Placement Project, later known as Transitional Employment, are written; the first placements are secured soon after. Fountain House begins to secure leases for apartments in the community. Board member Hetty Richard personally signs many of these leases.


John Beard, an innovative social worker from Michigan, is named Executive Director. He immediately engages unemployed members in working with him to fix up the building during the daytime.


The Fountain House Foundation is incorporated and the Fountain House Fellowship is established.


The first official meeting of WANA (We Are Not Alone) is held at the Third Street YMCA in Manhattan. The meeting grew from a self-help group that started at Rockland State Hospital. It was organized by Michael Obolensky, a former patient, and Elizabeth Schermerhorn, a former volunteer. Ten members and Ms. Schermerhorn were present.

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