Phoenix Friendship House
August 8, 2014
At the heart of a good recovery success story is SELF – self-esteem, self-reliance, self-management. These intrinsic factors, strengthened with great therapy, efficacious medications and the necessary social supports, create the environment for recovery from the effects and impacts of mental illness. These self-focused factors are critical components of the clubhouse model. Coming into popularity in the late 1970’s, clubhouse programs have proven to be successful interventions for thousands of people living with mental illness. Today, there are over 325 clubhouse programs in 28 countries around the world.
New Center Community Services’ is proud to be home to one of the most successful and lauded clubhouse programs in the country.
New Center Community Services’ (NCCS) Phoenix Friendship House opened its doors February 28, 2005 with 10 members and a mission to provide a place where members with mental illness engender support, encouragement and a path to meaningful and productive living through socialization, meaningful work, and participation in functions and activities that help individuals help themselves.
The Phoenix Friendship House is a psychosocial rehabilitation facility that focuses on work and community as healing factors that promote recovery from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, and other serious mental illness. The goal of the Phoenix Friendship House is to operate as a community-based setting where members (the Clubhouse does not use the terms patients, clients or consumers) develop the skills that will allow them to successfully reintegrate into both the work force and the community. The Clubhouse community offers respect, hope, relationships, and opportunities for friendship, education, and employment.
The Clubhouse operates on the standards set by the International Center for Clubhouse Development (ICCD). These standards address membership, relationships, the “work-ordered” day and work units, and transitional, independent and supported employment.
Clubhouse membership is open to adults aged 21-76, who seek behavioral health services through New Center Community Services. Now more than 200 members strong, the average age of Clubhouse members is 50. (Like many of its peers, the Clubhouse faces some challenges in keeping young adults engaged in Clubhouse services.) In addition to the daily Clubhouse activities, members also participate in outside activities and late night programs. Maintaining these supplemental activities can be challenging due to members’ limited transportation options and lack of adequate program funding. Clubhouses are independent programs in which members are responsible for their own transportation to and from the site and other activities. Members must rely on their providers, their own transportation (or, most often, that of a family member) or public transportation.
With minimal staff assistance, members engage in a “work-ordered day” that supports the daily operation of the Clubhouse. Members engage in work activities such as clerical duties, reception responsibilities, janitorial tasks or other support services vital to maintaining the Clubhouse. Each of these activities, known as a work unit, is located within the site and is done during typical workday hours. Members rotate among these positions and may work at more than one work unit each day.
Clubhouse members are dedicated both to their recovery and their fellow Clubhouse members. Take Tonya and Wanda, for instance, who catch the bus to the Clubhouse from Detroit’s far west side at least three times each week, when weather permits, and sometimes even when it doesn’t. These two women have truly made Clubhouse attendance a priority in their lives. Tonya uses a walker and Wanda walks by her side every step of the way. Their commitment to the Clubhouse program and to each other is a beautiful thing; they personify the self-reliance that is one of the aims of Clubhouse teaching.
Clubhouse member Shelly recently lost her home to foreclosure, a devastating blow to anyone, but especially for someone living with severe and persistent mental illness, as do NCCS consumers and Clubhouse members. The support Shelly received from Clubhouse staff and members, however, was a key stabilizing factor for her. The staff listened to her with compassion and offered direction and resources to overcome her housing challenge.
Staff member Thea Willis referred Shelly to New Center’s Supported Housing Program, where staff there helped her find an apartment on the east side of town which Shelly absolutely loved. Supported Housing staff also helped her shop for furniture for her new apartment; this was a truly momentous experience for Shelly, who is now living independently.
Byron, a founding member of the Phoenix Friendship House, praises the program for helping him “build the self-confidence to live independently.” Byron’s history with NCCS includes several attempts to live on his own. At the Clubhouse, he found the third time to be the proverbial charm. Using skills learned through his Clubhouse experiences and activities, and New Center resources, Byron is now living independently, maintaining his autonomy and enjoying the freedom of making choices for his own life and achieving his life goals.
Under the able and enthusiastic directorship of Dr. Kevin Johnson, Clubhouse staff has witnessed many great success stories over the years, including two members meeting at the Clubhouse, falling in love, getting married and starting a family. Members have progressed to some of the highest heights in self-reliance and management, including completing GED and job training (through NCCS” Training Center), securing stable employment and housing, and even purchasing automobiles for their personal use. Some Clubhouse members have gone on to become Certified Peer Support Specialists.
New Center Community Services
New Center Community Services is celebrating its 35th year of excellence in mental health in metro-Detroit. With a dynamic new executive leadership team, the organization is experiencing an exciting renewal and is realizing future growth through programmatic expansion and transformational change that will set NCCS apart from its peers. The organization restructured itself to improve its visibility in the community, function more efficiently and to better align departments, skillsets and people. In January, 2014, the Board of Directors was expanded and optimized to ensure strong strategic governance and better imprint the community with the NCCS brand.
New Center Community Services is dedicated to its mission to provide and promote quality behavioral health services in a caring and safe environment, and operates on the key values of Excellence, Dignity, Innovation and Quality. New Center is defined by its expert, caring staff; it’s excellence in the delivery of programs; and its ability to provide stellar customer service. New Center staff facilitates processes to empower individuals to determine their own life goals, make healthy decisions, gain control of their lives, and initiate and lead the way in realizing their own recovery.
The Clubhouse is critical in achieving this objective, both as a safe place for members’ growth and development, but also as a key player in the quality of community life. The activities and programming of the Clubhouse encourage members to be productive community citizens, and gives them the skills to better participate in community life. Phoenix Friendship House contributes laudably to the organization’s bottom line – over $150,000 annually – as a result of the nearly $500,000 annual investment New Center makes in terms of human and other operational resources. Part of New Center’s 2014 – 15 public relations plan includes a greater emphasis on sharing the importance and impact the Clubhouse has on its members and the greater metro-Detroit community.