Getting back to life can be difficult for anyone diagnosed with serious mental illness, including Veterans. A new partnership between VA and Clubhouse International gives them another option for rehabilitation.
Circle City Clubhouse is like a second home for David Fearance. The 59-year-old Army Veteran has been coming to a converted office building on the Indianapolis west side for nearly three years.
Clubhouse member David Fearance and his caregiver Kat Blane at Circle City Clubhouse. Fearance, a 59-year-old Army veteran has been coming to Circle City Clubhouse, Indianapolis for nearly three years. Photo by Jill Sheridan/IPB News
What’s right with you?
“I work at Circle City Clubhouse house,” says Fearance. He was in the Army for 10 years. Fearance suffers from severe psychosis. Before he started coming to the Clubhouse he was mostly home bound. Now he answers the phone, helps in the kitchen and in other ways.
“I vacuum. What I should do is clean these windows,” says Fearance.
Clubhouse members help staff and other members run the daily Clubhouse program. It is open to anyone who has been seriously affected by mental illness.
There is a growing need for mental health services for Veterans. An estimated one-quarter of active military members showed signs of mental health conditions.
Jay Brubaker is executive director of Circle City Clubhouse.
“We start instead of saying, ‘what’s wrong with you?’ we say what’s right,” says Brubaker. “What are the things you’re good at? What are the things that you like to do? We try to get our members involved based on that.”
Clubhouse members may help cook meals or clean. They can get vocational training or help run the thrift shop inside the club.
“So that they can build an identity based on these are the things that you’re good at and use those then to kind of help get back into the community,” says Brubaker.
“It really drives home the need for community connection and Veterans to connect, not to keep them separated,” says Brubaker.
Jason Riddle, a social worker with the VA in Indianapolis, works with the Clubhouse organization to assist and refer Veterans with severe mental illness .
From depression to severe mental illness, Veterans practice recovery
Jason Riddle is a social worker with the Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis.
The VA doesn’t have this type of psycho-social rehabilitation model and the MISSION Act makes it easier for VA providers to refer Veteran patients to resources like Clubhouse, and for organizations to get reimbursed.
Riddle says the move makes care more accessible. “Especially with a big focus on suicide prevention and then the things that go along with that and not having a good support network, the isolation and loneliness in general can just make for a hard, hard time,” Riddle says.
Clubhouse is now open to Veterans suffering from a range of issues. About half of Veterans with a mental health condition don’t seek treatment. Riddle says this model can be another option.
“It doesn’t have to be just for someone that … has a chronic mental health condition,” says Riddle, “It can be someone that’s just having some depression, they’re feeling depressed, they can’t get out of the house. This is something that you can actually get out as tangible and just practice your recovery.”
Riddle has reached out to other clubhouses in Indiana and beyond to increase referrals and make connections to assist other Veterans.
Vital support for caregivers and families
At Circle City Clubhouse in Indianapolis, David Fearance is with his caregiver Kat Blane. She’s his cousin and legal guardian. Her family took him years ago and when her parents passed, she became his sole caregiver.
“Had it not been for the Clubhouse, he probably would have been back in the nursing home,” says Blane. She says David has made great strides in his recovery after he started coming to clubhouse.
“He can be home by himself if I have to be gone,” says Blane, “I can say ‘David here is your food,’ and he knows how to get it. And all of that is from him being a part of the Circle City Clubhouse.”
She says as a caregiver that is invaluable. “That’s helpful for me because I wouldn’t be able to do all these things although I am retired and totally responsible. It always helps when you can get extra support,” says Blane.
For more on Clubhouse International visit: https://clubhouse-intl.org/.
Jill Sheridan is the Health and Science Reporter for Indiana Public Broadcasting, WFYI Public Radio