Inside NYC’s Original Social Club For Mental Health


Madelyn Joseph first joined Fountain Home, a social membership for individuals with psychological well being points based mostly in Midtown Manhattan, as a result of she wanted a technique to fill her time. She had dropped out of faculty at SUNY New Paltz and wasn’t working.

“It was probably not good to have an excessive amount of free time,” stated Joseph, 29, who has been identified with bipolar dysfunction, ADHD, anxiousness, PTSD and autism.

5 years later, she is contributing to the Fountain Home neighborhood in methods large and small, from digitizing information within the Welcome Middle to writing about style for the in-house newspaper. The clubhouse helped Joseph earn her affiliate’s diploma and, through the pandemic, saved her linked to the neighborhood by way of digital programming. Whereas at dwelling, Joseph, who’s trans, launched a brand new group on-line known as Queer Council with the purpose of constructing Fountain Home extra welcoming for LGBTQ members.

“They saved my life,” she stated of Fountain Home as we sat within the clubhouse library. It was late June, and he or she was relieved to be again on one of many first days the middle was open for in-person exercise once more. She stated she now has the boldness and expertise to search for full-time work. “I’m far more succesful, I’m far more able-bodied, I’m extra impartial.”

Fountain House member Madelyn Joseph works in the Welcome Center, which provides orientation for new enrollees. She has worked to expand the gender and sexuality options on intake forms as part of her effort to make Fountain House more welcoming for LGBTQ members.


Alex Kent for WNYC Gothamist

Fountain House member Madelyn Joseph works in the Welcome Center, which provides orientation for new enrollees. She has worked to expand the gender and sexuality options on intake forms as part of her effort to make Fountain House more welcoming for LGBTQ members.


Alex Kent for WNYC Gothamist

Fountain Home pioneered the clubhouse mannequin, when it was based by a bunch of psychiatric sufferers within the Nineteen Forties. The concept has since proliferated throughout the globe. Clubhouses are free and voluntary to affix for these with a critical psychological well being analysis, reminiscent of schizophrenia or bipolar dysfunction. Members run every part alongside employees, from cooking lunch to planning actions to retaining the crops alive.

The clubhouses function on the premise that social isolation is dangerous for individuals’s psychological well being, and that neighborhood and a way of goal can measurably enhance it—a sentiment that many extra New Yorkers can possible relate to given the pandemic.

“From this previous 12 months, the place we have had so many individuals at dwelling and remoted, we all know the significance of human connections for everyone,” Myla Harrison, assistant commissioner of the town Well being Division’s Bureau of Psychological Well being, stated in an interview with WNYC/Gothamist. “And, specifically, for individuals with psychological sickness.”

After serving as a significant useful resource for this weak inhabitants through the pandemic, the town’s clubhouses are getting an infusion of public funding to extend their membership. The hassle is certainly one of a number of initiatives Mayor Invoice de Blasio specified by April concentrating on the estimated 280,000 New Yorkers with a critical and debilitating psychological sickness—a inhabitants that critics initially stated was not sufficient of a precedence for the mayor’s expensive ThriveNYC psychological well being program.

The funds the town handed in June contains $4 million for the 16 clubhouses unfold throughout the 5 boroughs (14 of that are accredited by Clubhouse Worldwide, a corporation that has codified clubhouse requirements).

Fountain House members listen to music as they prepare lunch in the kitchen. Members help run every aspect of the center.


Fountain Home members take heed to music as they put together lunch within the kitchen. Members assist run each side of the middle.

Alex Kent for WNYC Gothamist

Till now, public funding for clubhouses has flowed primarily from the state, though it’s administered by means of contracts with the town Well being Division. The newest funding brings complete metropolis and state funding for the packages to $14.6 million, a virtually 50% enhance over the earlier 12 months. It’s the primary new public funding the town’s clubhouses have seen in 20 years, in response to Dr. Ashwin Vasan, Fountain Home’s president and CEO.

“We have actually uncared for this for therefore lengthy, however lastly it is turning into a problem,” he stated. “We see [people with serious mental illness] actually disconnected and marginalized and actually bouncing round in this sort of revolving door between emergency rooms, shelters, incarceration and the road.”

Fountain House’s Education Unit holds a hybrid meeting in which some members participate in person and others join on Zoom.


Alex Kent for WNYC Gothamist

Clubhouses are primarily centered on constructing social connections and employment alternatives, as they associate with native companies to supply individuals with work expertise exterior clubhouse partitions. However the organizations additionally assist members enroll in advantages and function hyperlinks to companies reminiscent of well being care and housing. Though some research have measured the advantages of the clubhouse mannequin, extra analysis is required to display its affect, in response to a literature evaluate from 2018.

Fountain Home has labored in recent times to generate metrics of success. In line with the clubhouse web site, 40% of members are homeless or unstably housed once they be a part of, and 99% of these members are housed inside a 12 months. Members who have been beforehand incarcerated additionally boast decrease charges of recidivism than the overall inhabitants.

A 2017 examine from researchers at NYU discovered that new Fountain Home members who had racked up expensive payments for Medicaid previous to becoming a member of had fewer hospitalizations and emergency division visits of their first 12 months. At the same time as their outpatient care and drugs prices elevated, their medical prices dropped, by about 20% total.

Fountain House member Nelson Rivera, 57, shares his poetry with other members who are still participating remotely. Fountain House programming went virtual during the pandemic, and in-person activities only recently started to come back.


Fountain Home member Nelson Rivera, 57, shares his poetry with different members who’re nonetheless collaborating remotely. Fountain Home programming went digital through the pandemic, and in-person actions solely not too long ago began to return again.

Alex Kent for WNYC Gothamist

However Vasan laments that clubhouses are nonetheless undervalued. A major care doctor at NewYork-Presbyterian and professor of inhabitants well being at Columbia College, Vasan joined Fountain Home in 2019 with the purpose of elevating the profile of clubhouses and higher integrating them into the behavioral well being system. He’s working to include the town’s clubhouses—and others across the nation—right into a nationwide community with shared branding and sources.

Juliet Douglas, government director of Enterprise Home, which operates clubhouses in Queens and Staten Island, typically asks individuals, “What does the phrase ‘clubhouse’ imply to you?”

“I get solutions like ‘the Mickey Mouse Membership’ or ‘it is like a lodge’ or ‘it is a baseball clubhouse,’” Douglas stated. “No person ever associates the time period ‘clubhouse’ with psychological well being or psychosocial rehabilitation.”

Enterprise Home has an settlement with Fountain Home to affix its nationwide community, which she hopes will increase advertising and enhance consciousness about clubhouses among the many basic public.

However she emphasised that every clubhouse has its personal tradition and he or she stated she wouldn’t need that to alter. “We do not need to turn out to be cookie cutter like McDonald’s,” she stated.

Douglas stated her hope is that with contemporary advertising, clubhouses can turn out to be as commonplace because the YMCA. “When somebody strikes right into a neighborhood,” she stated, “they need to be asking, ‘The place’s the hospital? The place’s the library? The place’s the college? The place’s the clubhouse?’”