Fountain House to Receive $1.5 Million Hilton Humanitarian Prize

Posted on July 17, 2014

The $1.5 million Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize is the world's largest humanitarian prize. The $1.5 million Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize is the world's largest humanitarian prize. Fountain House/Clubhouse International, has been selected to receive the 2014 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize of $1.5 million. The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation presents the annual award, the world’s largest humanitarian prize, to an organization that is doing extraordinary work to alleviate human suffering. An independent international jury makes the final selection. 

About 450 million people worldwide suffer from mental and behavioral disorders, according to the World Health Organization. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that one in four people in the United States develop some kind of mental illness during their lives, most often during younger years. Half of cases begin by age 14 and three-quarters by 24. Mental disorders are a factor in 90 percent of the nearly one million global suicides each year.

“The problem is staggering in its global impact and scale with significant repercussions that adversely affect millions of families and society as a whole,” said Steven M. Hilton, Chairman, President and CEO of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. “Mental illness is an issue that touches significant areas the Hilton Foundation has been working on for many years, such as chronic homelessness and substance abuse.  The Fountain House/Clubhouse International program of social relationships and meaningful work has literally saved tens of thousands of lives over the past 66 years.  Its program is a beacon of hope for those suffering from mental illness who are too often consigned to lives of homelessness, imprisonment, and social stigma and isolation.”

Today Fountain House/Clubhouse International directly affects the lives of more than 100,000 people who participate in 340 clubhouses in 32 countries. The concept of membership underpins every aspect of the community.  Clubhouse members share ownership and responsibility for their community starting with the “work ordered day” that provides structure for their lives by assigning them duties to work side-by-side with staff to run the clubhouse.

“I have been moved by the fact that Fountain House purposefully depends on people with mental illness for its daily operation and future - from answering phones to designing and running programs and serving on the board of directors,” said actress Glenn Close, who has been a volunteer at Fountain House New York and previously nominated the organization for the Hilton Prize.  “Shared responsibility builds self esteem and alleviates the stigma and isolation that so often haunt people with mental disorders.” Close has teamed up with Fountain House to launch her own anti-stigma campaign, BringChange2Mind.

A second pillar of the Fountain House model is a transitional employment program in which local employers provide members with paid employment of 15-20 hours a week for six to nine months.  A staff member trains with the clubhouse member and fills in if the member is unable to work.  The program has proven benefits for members and employers.   For example, Dow Jones & Company has employed over 360 members in New York, London and Tokyo.   Other employers have included American Express Publishing, Estee Lauder Companies, Fox Television, HBO, Young & Rubicam, Museum of Modern Art, Pfizer Inc., Cravath, Swaine & Moore, Morgan Stanley and many others.

“It is with enormous gratitude that Fountain House/Clubhouse International accepts the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize,” said Kenneth Dudek, President of Fountain House. “With this award, the Hilton Foundation and its international jurors recognize mental illness as a global humanitarian crisis and acknowledge Fountain House/Clubhouse International’s evidenced-based approach to empowering people living with mental illness throughout the world.  The prize belongs to the courageous and hardworking people connected to clubhouses everywhere.”

Fountain House/Clubhouse International clubhouses now span the globe and independent studies have found that, compared with people living with mental illness who are in other programs, members are more likely to report being in recovery; work longer and earn more; show significant improvement in their symptoms, self-esteem and quality of life after attending a clubhouse for six months; along with decreased use of psychiatric inpatient care and other social and health services.

“Fountain House is an organization whose work has never been more relevant in our world as we sadly see in daily headlines,” says Hilton.  “Its work demonstrates that we can unshackle those with mental disorders from isolation and stigma and embrace them as productive independent people with talents and contributions important to our society.”

The 2014 Hilton Prize will be presented at the annual Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize Dinner following a one-day Symposium at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City on October 27, 2014.



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