Newton Residents with Mental Illness Protest Plan to Throw out Clubhouse Model
People who have mental illness, with allies from across the state, gathered Tuesday at the Department of Mental Health and then walked to the State House to deliver a petition to Governor Deval Patrick asking the Governor and the DMH Commissioner, Marcia Fowler, to stop the plan to fundamentally alter the nature of their evidenced-based practice Clubhouse centers as the administration moves forward in its re-contracting of the centers. Organized by the Massachusetts Clubhouse Coalition (MCC), the group objects to efforts by the administration to cut costs with a plan to discharge potentially thousands of their members from the Clubhouse centers that have proven to be a life-line for so many.
Thousands of people with mental illness, their families and allies have asked the administration to stick with the proven ICCD Clubhouse model. Instead, advocates state that though DMH says it wants to fund evidenced-based practice services, for Clubhouses centers, DMH decided to invent their own model. After 12 years of not re-bidding and flat funding the centers, the administration plans to fundamentally alter the nature of the Clubhouses in the re-contracting process while replacing the way the centers bill the state. Advocates believe the new billing system is unnecessarily cumbersome, very costly, intrusive and full of unfunded mandates and moves Clubhouses away from the prevention and recovery model to one that has never been tested.
David Berkeley, a Newton resident and member of Elliot House in Needham, a service of Riverside Community Care, had 56 hospitalizations before he became a Clubhouse member. Since joining five years ago he has had only 3 brief hospitalizations and has been able to maintain employment at the Newton Library for the past four years.
“The Clubhouse re-contracting document (RFR) will carve an enormous hole in the safety net provided by the 33 Clubhouses in Massachusetts,” said David. “As a member of an ICCD evidence-based Clubhouse and a registered voter, I strongly believe that the way that the RFR is currently written will threaten my ability to receive mental health services when I need them. Elliot House has been an important part of my recovery and has always been there for me when I needed them the most. I feel this would likely affect thousands of people just like me who have had their lives disrupted by mental illness and who depend on their Clubhouse for support in their recovery. I urge The Department of Mental Health to STOP THIS PLAN and redraft the RFR.”
Massachusetts currently has 33 recovery and rehabilitation centers, called “Clubhouses,” that serve over 8,300 residents annually who are recovering from serious and persistent mental illness. Clubhouse members currently enjoy significant employment success, and earn over $13 million dollars annually, working in local companies as they re-enter the job market with the support of their Clubhouse centers. The Senate awarded the 33 Clubhouses an increase of $1.5 million dollars in their budget, to address twelve years of flat funding which has put the centers quality at risk. While mental health consumers and advocates work with their legislators to try to hold onto the $1.5 million increase and as legislators work out the difference between the House and Senate budgets, the centers find themselves in the position of fighting for the integrity of their Clubhouse model.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) determined that “ICCD Clubhouses” are an evidenced-based practice. The evidenced-based model does not discharge members, instead, once “enrolled”, a person who has a serious and persistent mental illness decides themselves how much support they need in order to remain stable and productive in the community. Similar to a senior center, the service exists for those who have serious mental illness to utilize as a base of support and for connections to jobs, school, housing and social activities. Once members are employed, have gained an education, have moved forward in their recovery and are connected with a community of peers, they often choose to spend less time at the Clubhouse. This though is determined by the person themselves. The Clubhouse thus is a prevention center and community of support, providing many who have experienced a great deal of social rejection and isolation, a solid base of support from which to operate. Though the administration may see these centers as a mental health program, for members, the Clubhouse becomes their family and community. This has helped to save the Commonwealth hundreds of thousands of dollars on hospitalization, crisis service and homelessness costs as people become rooted in their community with the support of the Clubhouse.
Now funded for each day they are open, the administration is moving to fund the centers instead person by person for distinct services offered. The administration says they are making this change as a result of Chapter 257, a law passed to stop the administration from flat funding services while costs rise. The MCC and others have been advised that a person by person billing system is not a requirement of Chapter 257, - instead, Chapter 257 requires that the flat funding of services while costs rise must come to an end.