Twelve companies were recognized at Michigan’s State Capitol during Mental Health Awareness Month for diversifying their workforce by employing adults who have mental illness, with the support of Clubhouse programs across Michigan. The event was organized by Clubhouse Michigan, a coalition of Clubhouses dedicated to serving adults with mental illness in every area of the state. Michigan Senators and State Legislators presented awards to the companies in recognition of their commitment and leadership in helping people who have mental health challenges obtain employment, thus helping to dispel the stigma of mental illness, which is so often an obstacle to full recovery and community integration. The awards were presented in front of a crowd of over 100 people, including Clubhouse member workers, their employers, Clubhouse staff and their state legislators.
Samantha Sprague, owner of the Game Realm in Petoskey, was present to receive an award, along with two of Petoskey Club’s members who work at Game Realm, Catherine Rubino and Kandyce Alworden.
What makes the award to Sprague especially meaningful, according to Jama Moffett, Petoskey Club Director, is that “Samantha is a previous member of the Petoskey Club who went on to start her own business and is now helping others on their way as well.”
After receiving the award, Sprague shared the following sentiment, “I was a little hesitant to accept the award because I didn’t do this for recognition. When I was at Petoskey Club they helped me to open up and gave me the courage to open my own business. I can’t say thank you enough for all Petoskey Club has done for me and for others, and I’m really glad that I can do this small thing to help other people.”
Rubino, one of the Petoskey Club members who works at the Game Realm, said, “I would like to thank Samantha and the Game Realm for giving me the chance to grow as a person. During my time employed at Game Realm, my self-confidence and sense of worth have increased in many significant ways. I have learned a lot about myself by being a part of the team. This experience continues to make me a better person.”
Alworden, who was the first Transitional Employment (TE) worker at Game Realm, and now maintains an ongoing Supported Employment (SE) position there, helped train Rubino for the TE job. Alworden said that “Working at the Realm has been a learning experience with doing more in-depth sorting and filing, which has given me the confidence to take on additional responsibilities and has helped me to be less afraid to speak with people.”
Moffett noted, “Employment is a powerful tool for recovery for people challenged by living with a mental illness. Because of the stigma associated with mental illness, some employers are initially hesitant to hire our clients until they understand that our partnership is a win-win endeavor. At this event, we honor forward thinking employers who have looked past preconceptions to learn what our program supports can do to foster success. They’ve hired our Clubhouse members, found that they are willing and dependable employees, and are a positive example to other employers, demonstrating that our members make great employees, and our program is here to back them up.”
Clubhouses are comprehensive rehabilitation, recovery and support centers for people recovering from mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, major depression and anxiety disorders to live successfully in their communities. Clubhouse members choose to volunteer their time and talents to run the Clubhouse while working side by side with staff colleagues, which is inherently rehabilitative and fosters recovery. Many members become interested in paid employment, and so the Clubhouse provides Transitional Employment and Supported Employment opportunities through partnerships with local businesses. In Transitional Employment, members work for six to nine months and receive training and absence coverage is provided by the Clubhouse staff Placement Managers. In Supported Employment, an established connection between the Clubhouse and the employer helps the member get the job, with optional training offered, as well as ongoing support being available. Estimates put Clubhouse members’ combined earnings at nearly $2.7 million per year in Michigan.
Moffett added, “There are more than 200 Clubhouses in the United States that support over 45,000 adults in their recovery. We are blessed to have over 40 clubhouses right here in Michigan, more than any other state.”
Petoskey Club is a program of North Country Community Mental Health. If you would like to learn more about the Petoskey Club, please contact Jama Moffett, Director, at (231) 347-1786.