With mental illness, much like physical illness, there’s often a gap in care after a patient is discharged from a hospital.
People with serious mental illnesses can be hospitalized short-term for treatment. But they often need an interim step — “a bridge” as it’s sometimes called — to help them begin to rehabilitate and readjust to their everyday lives and the demands that come with jobs, schooling and parenting.
That’s the gap two Everett parents, Harold and Meg McClure, are trying to fill. They saw the need through the experience of their son, Colin, a Jackson High School graduate who had been accepted to the Art Institute of Seattle.
“We realized there was something not right going on with him,” Harold McClure said. His problems were diagnosed as schizophrenia.
The chronic and severe mental disorder affects how a person thinks and feels, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. It can cause symptoms that lead people to seemingly lose touch with reality.
“That was our awaking to mental illness,” Harold McClure said.
That led the couple to begin schooling themselves on mental illness. They saw that their son, who was hospitalized twice, and many others needed some kind of interim help after being treated for mental illness.
That’s when they learned about Hero House, a national program to help those recovering from mental illness build connections, job readiness, independence and confidence.
In Washington, there are Hero House clubhouses in Spokane, Bellevue and Seattle.
After the couple toured the Bellevue clubhouse, “we thought why don’t we try to open a clubhouse here in Everett?” Harold McClure said.
They have spent the last two years working to build support for the project with help from the National Alliance on Mental Illness Snohomish County and other local mental health organizations, including Hero House NW.
The McClures are both retired, he from running his own businesses, and she from her work as a speech therapist in the Everett School District.
The Everett project has received a $100,000 state grant. But leasing a space for the clubhouse as well as staffing and operating is estimated to cost about $350,000 a year.
The immediate need is to raise about $75,000 to find a place to open the clubhouse and hire a staff member.
The McClures hope much of the additional money needed to open the clubhouse can be raised through private donations. Contributions can be made through the website of the nonprofit Hero House NW by designating that it’s for the Everett project.
The goal is to hire a program director by Jan. 31. “Then we’re hoping that maybe by spring we can open a couple days a week,” Meg McClure said. “We’re very excited.”
Adults would be referred to the program by a counselor or doctor. Clubhouse programs are for rehabilitation but not treatment.
One of the goals is to help people rejoin the workforce, if they can. This might start with a 20-hour-a-week job, Meg McClure said. Prospective employers are told that if the employee isn’t able to come to work for any reason, a clubhouse staff member will complete the shift.
“The employer is never left holding the bag,” Harold McClure said.
Club members are helped with tasks such as job searches, interviewing techniques and signing up for classes.
“It is so challenging to find places to connect for people who have mental illness,” said Lisa Utter, executive director of Snohomish County’s NAMI chapter.
Those trying to cope with mental illness and depression often must also contend with loneliness. “The social isolation is huge,” Utter said.
Compass Health once ran a clubhouse in Snohomish County, but had to abandon the program in the late 1990s when its government funding was cut. This despite Compass acting as a West Coast training center for other communities seeking to open similar programs.
Nationally, the clubhouses that have been most successful are those where its members govern themselves and operate the program, said Tom Sebastian, Compass Health’s executive director.
Establishing a clubhouse in Everett “will really fill a gap we’ve had since the time we had to close the clubhouse we had,” he said.
The McClure’s son, Colin, 29, now living in Eastern Washington, is pursuing his interest in art through personal cartooning. Once the clubhouse opens, they hope he can move back to the area and participate in its programs.
Harold McClure said in addition to helping his son and others, his own experience also has played a role in his commitment to the clubhouse project. An Irish immigrant, he came to America in 1981.
“I want to make a contribution to the community,” he said. “This is a place that I feel there is a need. Nobody is going to do it, so why not us?”
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Email email@example.com for more information on Hero House Everett.
Make a donation
Contributions may be made at the website www.herohousenw.org. Click on the Seattle or Bellevue link, and then look for a donate button. Designate that the contribution to the Everett clubhouse under the special instructions section.