Alliance Note: New York City Clubhouse supporters and advocates continue to push for changes to the City’s proposed plan to expand Clubhouse membership. While the supporters strongly agree with the City’s goal of getting more people access to these critical services, they fear the current structure could result in potentially hundreds of people losing a community they rely on and the relationships which make the Clubhouses so effective.
Clubhouse supporters have been advocating for changes to the proposal which would allow more flexibility in how smaller Clubhouses grow to meet the expanded need. We know Clubhouses are an integral part of the mental health service continuum in the City and these programs want to be part of the solution to the current crisis.
Today, City Council Member Linda Lee, the Council’s Mental Health Chair, and TOP Clubhouse Director Monica Rahman authored an article in New York Daily News reinforcing the need to lean on the expertise of existing Clubhouses, both big and small, to expand the program. As Harvey told the authors, the City cannot make the mistake the State did when it closed over two dozen clubhouses and left many without the relationships which were essential to their recovery.
The City must work with the smaller Clubhouses to prevent them from unnecessarily closing and support them as they work to meet the City’s goal of expanding membership so anyone who wants Clubhouse services has access to them. See below to read the Daily News article.
More Clubhouses for NYers with Mental Illness
By Linda Lee and Monica Rahman | New York Daily News | January 19, 2024
When David Mitchell first arrived at TOP Clubhouse on the Upper West Side, his mental health struggles and frequent hospitalizations had been interfering with school. Soon, David became a regular at TOP — one of 16 clubhouses in New York City where people with serious mental illness can come and go as they choose, join the operations of the clubhouse, and become part of a supportive community. Now, he and another member are attending GED classes together.
In his first year in office, Mayor Adams declared a “moral obligation” to help New Yorkers with mental health diagnoses like David, whose illness may be stopping them from achieving their goals. Now it’s time to make community-based clubhouses like TOP a key part of that solution.
Adams has signaled his support for clubhouses with a much publicized $30 million investment. His goal is to serve 3,750 new individuals, above the current 5,000 participants. We laud these goals, but the plan for implementing this funding would pull the rug out from under most of the city’s clubhouses, uprooting communities that have taken years to develop.
Instead of opening new sites throughout the city, he would build mega-centers, concentrated in fewer neighborhoods, and close existing clubhouses, disrupting the lives of thousands of members.
The mayor and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene have announced that they will end existing clubhouse contracts and have issued a Request for Proposals to replace them with new sites that would be three to 12 times the size of existing community clubhouses like TOP. There would be fewer places to go, and more people jammed into each site.
We find this approach shortsighted. Forcing members to cut ties with their long-standing communities would be detrimental to the recovery of thousands of New Yorkers who have achieved stability at their clubhouses. More than 3,500 clubhouse members and supporters have signed a petition calling for the city to maintain existing programs and help them to grow, while also building new clubhouses.
They have also raised concerns about the city’s new one-size-fits-all approach. Many members prefer the intimate and nurturing environment of smaller clubhouses. This freedom of choice is often stripped away from people with mental illness when they are treated as patients instead of capable people who deserve agency over their lives.
The city’s proposal is also unproven. The University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School’s Program for Clubhouse Research reports that clubhouses around the world average 109 members, while the city would require new clubhouses to have 300 to 1,200 members each. Only four of the 347 clubhouses worldwide meet NYC’s new requirements, according to their research.
The City Council has pushed for a different path forward. Last year, it passed a law mandating the addition of five new clubhouses. Just this month, 21 Council Members signed a letter authored by Mental Health Chair Linda Lee to the mayor and health commissioner urging them to fulfill this mandate and build more community-based clubhouses.
Harvey Rosenthal, CEO of the statewide Alliance for Rights and Recovery, told us he fears the city is going to make the same mistake New York State did, when the state closed upwards of 25 clubhouses in the mid-2000s that had been integral to its mental health infrastructure for 25 years. To this day, people tell Harvey, “I lost my family and my community.”
The mayor might argue that the proposed plan fulfills that mandate, as it promises to serve more New Yorkers through its mega clubhouses. We see very large clubhouses as part of the solution, but we specifically need more sites in more local communities to reach the people who need them.
More than half of New York City’s clubhouse members choose to attend smaller sites, either because they are closer to where they live or because they feel more comfortable in an intimate community they see as family.
David Mitchell is now one of the TOP members pushing the city to save his clubhouse. “TOP gave me the motivation to become someone great,” he told us. “I am stable on my medication, I feel good, I take life seriously. TOP Clubhouse changed my life.”
Too often, government reinvents the wheel. This program is too important to too many New Yorkers to undo it. Instead, we need to build on it, help it grow, and bring it to more neighborhoods, so we can help more New Yorkers find community like David did.
Lee is chair of the New York City Council’s Committee on Mental Health, Disability and Addiction. Rahman is the director of Goddard Riverside’s TOP Clubhouse.More clubhouses for NYers with mental illness (nydailynews.com)