Leaders from seven Texas cities gathered in San Antonio on Tuesday and Wednesday to learn about a model of success for adults living with mental illness. It’s called the Clubhouse movement, and it’s helping people stay out of psychiatric hospitals, reconnect with family members, and return to the workforce.
The San Antonio Clubhouse sits inside of a stark white building surrounded by a sea of asphalt. While it may not look homey from the outside, the clubhouse has become a center for people rebuilding their lives.
Mark Stoeltje is the Executive Director.
“It’s basically socialization as a part of recovery. I’m not a mental health professional. Most of the people who come into the clubhouse, I don’t know what their diagnosis is," Stoeltje says. "One of the things that’s quite unique about the clubhouse is that we don’t focus on a person’s illness. We focus on what do they want to do with their lives, how do they want to take the next step in their recovery.”
The Clubhouse is structured around volunteer units. Each one provides a different opportunity for vocational training. There’s a commercial kitchen, a media lab, and a copy room, to name a few. Clubhouse members perform all kinds of vital tasks from cleaning to data entry to social media promotion. Everyone gets involved.
San Antonio, Houston, and Austin are home to the three of Texas’s accredited Clubhouses. Interested groups are forming in places like Dallas, McKinney, San Angelo, El Paso, and the Rio Grande Valley.
But money is an obstacle. Ruth Josenhans is with PLAN Clubhouse of North Texas, which opened for its first official day on August 1st. She came to San Antonio to swap strategies for fundraising and logistics.
“The biggest issue is the fact that clubhouses like this are normally funded by the state. Our new clubhouses aren’t," Josenhans says.
In 2015, the Texas legislature approved 1.3 million dollars for the creation of new clubhouses. That funding was renewed in the last legislative session, with the caveat that it only be used for clubhouses already in existence.
Mark Stoeltje hopes that the clubhouses’ strong outcomes and low cost will convince the state to approve additional funds.