Posted on February 22, 2011
Kenneth J. Dudek
President, Fountain House
Recently, the Green Door Clubhouse, a Fountain House model program in Washington, D.C., announced its closing. Named for the distinctive front doors of our building, the Green Door helped people living with mental illness find their place in the community for 35 years. Until, like so many other programs, it fell victim to short-sighted funding approaches.
Medicaid has become the biggest source of funds for services for people with major mental illness. It is administered to provide short-term support for recovery-oriented services, but it is extremely limited when compared to the ongoing support necessary for the majority of this group to live productively in the community. Those who favor this approach are out of touch with the bulk of people living with these conditions. Recovery is rarely a linear process, and integration in the community is often challenging.
Social isolation is the biggest problem for those living with major mental illness today. Among our membership, we’ve found that even after people have a job and their own place to live, they don’t necessarily connect into the larger world. Of course, some do, but there is a very large group who don’t. Likewise, I used to think that when people left Fountain House, they became involved in other employment or education programs, but we found that most end up doing nothing.
Shame on the state governments and the commissioners of mental health who have supported these trends which abandon large swaths of people! State governments used to provide both the direction for these services and the greater part of funding. Now they simply match Medicaid, watch their deficits increase, surrender their leadership role, and continually reduce crucial services.
Today, more than ever, there is a need for working communities like Fountain House to break the social isolation and help people connect in multiple ways – through education and jobs, through supported housing and wellness services – and most importantly, through a supportive community where people truly feel like they belong and can return to when they need a little extra help.