SANFORD – Gov. Paul R. LePage joined more than 50 people on Thursday to help celebrate Maine’s newest Clubhouse at a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Sanford. The Sanford Clubhouse is now the fifth in Maine.
Clubhouses provide a supportive space for those with mental health challenges to work together to rebuild their lives, build relationships and prepare for employment.
The Sanford Clubhouse, which is part of Sweetser, joins other clubhouses in Augusta, Bangor, Lewiston and Waterville. In an effort to support the clubhouse model, members from other clubhouses attended Thurday’s celebration.
Gov. LePage has been a champion of clubhouses since the first one opened in Waterville during the 1990s.
“I stand behind the Clubhouse 100 percent because in this model, mental challenges are no longer allowed to stigmatize the lives of individuals,” said LePage in a state press release. “I commend the staff and supporters and members of the Sanford Clubhouse for providing a place of dignity, respect and opportunity where all participants are wanted and needed. Your work does not go unnoticed, and you are making a difference in the lives of all of the Clubhouse members and the communities and companies where they make meaningful contributions. I could not be more proud.”
A clubhouse, of which there are more than 300 around the world, is a collaborative community where members work side by side with staff to recover from mental illness and prepare for and be placed in meaningful employment through education and social programs. Members also participate in the decision-making and governance of clubhouse operations. In all clubhouse employment, the member is an employee of the company, earns a competitive wage and receives a pay check directly from the company.
“The Clubhouse is family away from home,” says Richard Clapp, a Sanford Clubhouse member, in the press release. “I enjoy being here with staff and other members that care about me. The Clubhouse has helped me focus on what I want to do for a job and is helping me get a job that I can do independently. Being a member here has changed my attitude too, and I like working with the people here, teaching me more about money skills, and helping me work on getting my driver’s license.”
In 1998, Gov.r LePage was the first person in Maine to give a clubhouse member employment when he managed Marden’s. He has since received national recognition for his leadership and advocacy on behalf of the High Hopes Clubhouse in Waterville.
Since 2011, three new clubhouses have been formed. Gov. LePage has dedicated state funding to support the Clubhouse model, and he has worked with Maine mental health advocates to promote their programs. MaineCare, health insurance provided through the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, covers the cost of services at the Sanford Clubhouse. There is no additional cost to be a member. Members are free to attend and participate in a work-ordered day with other members and staff.
In addition, members can obtain paid transitional and supported employment positions in the community. The first transitional employment placement is expected to occur next week, according to Sweetser staff.