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May 9, 2014
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March 23, 2013
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Our History

Clubhouse of Suffolk is a private, non-profit psychiatric rehabilitation and support agency that was founded in 1990 by members of Suffolk chapters of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. Under the leadership of a national advocate, Dr. Davis Pollack, this group sought to expand the range of opportunities available to people with mental illness who desired to participate in working, learning, housing, and social environments in their community.

To guide their quest, the group turned to Fountain House in New York City which, since 1948, has been a pioneer in the international development of "the clubhouse model", a community-based center for facilitating vocational and social integration. The success of this model has been evidenced by hundreds of replications of this model in this country and around the world. The fruits of the founding group's labor were borne with the opening of the doors of our Ronkonkoma clubhouse in January 1991, an event that brought huge response among Suffolk County residents whose lives were affected by serious mental illnesses. In 1993, following a visit to our clubhouse by then-NYSOMH Commissioner Dr. Richard Surles, Clubhouse was awarded an outpatient license, Intensive Psychiatric rehabilitation Treatment (IPRT), a license that allowed our clubhouse program to couple with the psychiatric rehabilitation approach - as it was developed, tested, and advanced by Boston University.

In 1995, a second clubhouse, Synergy Center in Riverhead, was opened as a result of advocacy by a united group of families and consumers on the East End who wanted to bring a clubhouse to their area. Our success with implementing clubhouses was called upon again in 1997 as a collaborator with two other agencies in the development and early operation of a third clubhouse in Suffolk, Journey House. These clubhouses grew to a large extent through the support of funds made possible by the passage of the Community Mental Health Reinvestment Act, an act which also led to the closure of two major State psychiatric centers in Suffolk County. Funds from this Act allowed for Clubhouse and Synergy's development of supported employment, supported education, transportation, peer support and recovery education programs and services --- and Clubhouse of Suffolk and Synergy Center became well-known across New York State for our success in advancing the lives of so many people through the rehabilitation-and-recovery-focused clubhouse-based services.

In 2001, concurrent with the passage of Kendra's Law and a resultant Statewide enhancement of case management services, our agency was awarded responsibility for providing supportive case management services to people with mental illnesses who reside in eastern Brookhaven and the five east end townships. In mid-decade, media and public advocacy attention to conditions and rights of people in licensed adult homes led to the award to Clubhouse of a case management and peer specialist team to assist residents of "impacted" homes. In 2007, with the advent of public policies that emphasized the importance of reaching out to people who were marginalized through the inadequate commitments of prior de-institutionalization policies, our case management program added a specialty teams to assist people who are homeless.

In 2005, responding to tragedies within our programs of serious and debilitating diseases that led to premature deaths of members and clients, Clubhouse of Suffolk successfully obtained and used grant funds from New York State Department of Health to develop smoking cessation protocols for people with mental illnesses. We developed and distributed nationally two training videos -- the first increased awareness about the disparate public response to tobacco addiction among people with a mental illness; the second provided an evidence-based practice approach, based upon research we conducted, to reducing the tobacco use in community mental health programs.

In the early part of the 2000 decade, following the demise of an initiative to utilize broad managed care strategies in te early 2000s, NYSOMH conceived a new licensed program, Personalized Recovery-Oriented Services (PROS). This program moved rehabilitation and recovery-based services, driven from person-centered processes, into the center of a community service system. Bolstered by the successes of our clubhouse and case management programs, several of Clubhouse of Suffolk's leaders assumed statewide leadership roles to advocate for this transformation of the community mental health system. In April, 2007, our two clubhouses transitioned our State Aid funding source and our IPRT license into two PROS licenses that allowed our clubhouses to offer an enhanced range of services. Included in this were mental health clinic services, cognitive remediation (for which Clubhouse also provided published support for the inclusion of such services in the license), and a focus upon co-occurring substance abuse and physical health of our clubhouse members. With an eye toward the critical importance of technology and information systems in health care, both programs also made use of a fully integrated electronic medical record as a platform for service delivery and documentation.

Our supportive case management program has also grown tremendously in terms of numbers of people served and staff skills in engaging more complex and multiply-challenged individuals. In 2009, we expanded our use of our electronic record by equipping our case management staff with laptops and remote access. This allowed staff the ability to engage and collaborate with their clients with the benefit of concurrent electronic assessment and documentation tools as well as with internet connectivity that enhanced the ability to access community information and resources.

The 2008 economic downturn also led us to recognize our responsibilities to address the needs of our surrounding communities. Responding to a call to action by Long Island CARES to address local hunger, we opened food pantries in our Ronkonkoma and Riverhead staffed extensively by clubhouse member and volunteers. The Riverhead food pantry is a collaboration with Suffolk County United Veterans that also reaches out to homeless and at-risk veterans.

As our programs grew and evolved so too has our core mission. At the foundation of our work has been an emphasis on the power of helping and healing relationships and a hardened belief in the potential and productivity of all people in recovery. Clubhouse of Suffolk's mission statement was revisited in 2005 and again in 2009 by stakeholder discussions of members, staff, and Board of Directors. The resultant statement reflects our ongoing commitment to a broad and individualized vision of recovery from the impact of mental illnesses and psychiatric disabilities.

Clubhouse of Suffolk assists people who are affected by mental illness to lead healthy, productive, addiction-free, and socially satisfying lives.