Bevin, Melissa, and Betty at the MA Clubhouse Coalition Conference.Melissa's Perspective
A few weeks ago, I had just walked into the education unit after taking a final. I was tired and just wanted to eat my lunch when Susan walked over and asked if I could help out with something. I replied, “What does it entail?” She said that the Massachusetts Clubhouse Coalition Conference was coming up. The plan was for Bevin, Betty, and I to talk about the educational supports offered at Fountain House; we would be leaving on Wednesday afternoon and returning on Thursday evening. Being that I’m taking an online class and can do the work from anywhere – and that I’m feeling underwhelmed by the work load - I agreed, and we began preparing for our discussion.
The three of us (Betty, Bevin, and I) sat down to develop an outline for our presentation, which included topics such as relationships with universities and other educational institutions in the city, in-house programs (tutoring, student gatherings, scholarship programs, etc.), and the unit community being a support for potential and current students. We also talked about incorporating our own experience(s) with education into the presentation, which would give it a more personal touch. Additionally, we were paired with Forum House (a small clubhouse in Massachusetts) and worked together to prepare a cohesive presentation.
With our agenda set, we made the long trek up north to Nichols College and prepared for a day chock-full of learning and networking. The morning kicked off with a plenary that included clubhouse as evidence-based practice, the new clubhouse contract, employment, and two members recounting their clubhouse experiences and how it contributed to recovery. There were some influential people in attendance, such as the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health.
Following the plenary, the three of us divided into different workshops; there were six to choose from, and I attended “Transitional Age Young Adults & Clubhouses,” which was facilitated by members and staff from Genesis Club. I was very familiar with the topic, as I have been part of the young adult coalition (formerly known as Crossroads), and it was nice to see old friends and learn about young adult issues that other clubhouses face. It was basically a round-table discussion that featured topics such as improving reach-out, meaningful work for young adults, effective outreach and social media, differentiating between young adults’ and older members’ needs, and how to motivate young adults.
Bevin went to a Health and Wellness workshop that touched upon the new guidelines of the Massachusetts Wellness Clubhouse contract. Representatives from Tradewinds Clubhouse presented on ways they made meals healthier while staying within their budget. They also talked about how they incorporated wellness and exercise into their everyday culture of the clubhouse. Many small clubhouses don’t have the luxury of having an actual Wellness Unit like we do here, so it was interesting to see the creative ways that units incorporate healthy living into everyday activities. There also was a presentation about a Dual Recovery twelve step program that was heartwarming and very motivating from Crossroads Clubhouse.
I attended a workshop on peer support within the clubhouse. There I learned that the Massachusetts Clubhouses have had to track each outreach call to members meticulously, but it has left them with unintended positive consequences along with the added time and paperwork. The old system was to make reach out calls and write down who you talked to. Now there is a script about what is going on in the house for the week if you reach the member, a script for what kind of message to leave on an answering machine, and one for what to say if a person who is not the member answers. The tracking system allows input on how the call went, if the person expresses the need for additional help, and if they want to sign up for any activities for the week.
Then the talk moved on to Peer Support. Like our UNITY Project, some of the clubhouses in MA have implemented a system to train members to be Peer Support Specialists and help prospective members to navigate the mental health and wellness systems including welfare, social security, education, job searches, doctor visits, benefits, and more. The system works well because learning from our peers is learning from someone who has been through it. This is a system I believe New York City and State are going to pilot and pay for through insurances, and I hope Fountain House jumps on the bandwagon to get as many paid peer support people coming from our organization as possible!
During our presentation we not only told the group about all of our amazing educational resources, but we also learned about theirs. Some of the things I was interested to learn more about were the use of computer training software and guides to teach people Microsoft Office, Graphic Design, Computer Networking and Computer Literacy. Learning disabilities were brought to the forefront as well as cognitive decline due to mental illness and medication. These are remedied by hooking members up with organizations that work to limit disabilities and by offering Cognitive Remediation Computer software for use. Job training along with educational training was mentioned as being integral in some of the clubhouse work order days. I believe we’ve been given a great opportunity to learn from younger clubhouses in how they have dealt with the economy, changing governmental involvement, and implementing innovative ideas that maybe a larger clubhouse doesn’t always think about due to our size.
Just one last thing, I had a wonderful time representing Fountain House and I want to thank all of the people who made that happen.
Melissa Hollander, Bevin Reilly, and Betty Spindelman
Education Unit, Fountain House