Geel’s unique history and experience has created a community virtually devoid of a negative stigma relative to mental illness. On the other hand, It is possible that our own experience, in the United States (particularly when the norm was institutional care for the mentally ill), has produced a separation between those with mental illness and community members. That separation feeds misconceptions and a negative stigma relative to mental illness
Geel’s foster family care system is not necessarily a model that is appropriate for all communities or all clients. In fact, Geel currently offers other alternatives for care and treatment (another example of the communitiy’s flexibility). What is more noteworthy when looking at Geel is:
- The outcome of a model that allows for near total community integration.
- Facilitation of community integration in the absence of a negative, myth-based stigma.
- Flexibility in the care of individuals with diverse symptoms and in the services offered for these individuals.
A community in this country might qualify as a “recovered community” if, as in Geel, that community:
- Acknowledges the human needs of those with mental illness
- Responds to those needs by providing social opportunities and meaningful work in the community
- Accepts those with mental illness as members of the community
- Shows flexibility in programs and approaches in order to address individual needs of clients
COMMUNITY RECOVERY in the UNITED STATES
Many programs in this country have had particular success in meeting some or all of these criteria. Following is a small sample of such programs (the author has visited or participated in programs or sites with an *):
*Alabama’s Annual Consumer Recovery Conference (in its 16th year in 2008)
In 1992 the Office of Consumer Relations in the Alabama Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation first sponsored what has become the nation’s largest statewide mental health conference organized for and by consumers. Since 1997 the conference has been held in a large rural conference center near Talladega, Alabama. In 2006, 700 consumers and 200 staff members attended the three day conference to hear speakers, participate in workshops, put on a talent show, and enjoy the lovely grounds
*Broadway Housing Communities, New York City
In 1975, following college graduation and a subsequent one year research fellowship in Geel, Ellen Baxter, motivated by her Geel experience, founded Broadway Housing Communities where she remains as Executive Director. Broadway Housing now operates six different buildings, all noted for integration of the healthy and disabled. The newest of these is Dorothy Day Apartments, opened in 2003 and now home to 190 children and family members living in 70 apartment units. Not only does Dorothy Day bring housing for the disabled into the community, the building also brings the community into the housing. For example, their licensed child care center is open to the children of residents as well as neighborhood children.
*Common Ground, New York City
Common Ground provides affordable permanent housing in six different New York City area buildings. The largest of these, The Times Square opened in 1991, is the “largest permanent supportive housing project in the nation.” Converted from dilapidated, but once grand, hotel, The Times Square today houses over 650 low income or formerly homeless individuals. Social services are available on-site and provisions are also made for everyday living needs, e.g., a computer laboratory; a library; an art studio; a medical clinic; 24-hour laundry facilities; a rehearsal space featuring floor-to-ceiling dance mirrors and a piano; and an exercise room.
*Community Access, New York City
Founded in 1974 by family members and friends of those who were released from long-term residence in state psychiatric hospitals and who had no place to call home. Today Community Access provides affordable housing for those with mental illness, as well as other families in need of such services, in over 600 units located in 10 different buildings in the New York City area. The newest building opened in 2007 and includes 73 – 500 square foot studio apartments in a new eight story building. In addition, on-site facilities include a gym / exercise room, and a library with computers. Since 1995, Community Access, through the Howie the Harp Peer Specialist Training Center, has also trained and placed over 350 people in human services jobs.
*Compeer, Inc, Rochester, New York
Compeer, a non-profit agency, coordinates friendship matches between community volunteers and individuals recovering from mental illness. It began in Rochester, New York, in 1976, and today there are over 100 Compeer agencies in the United States
*Compeer of Birmingham’s Habitat Hope House, Birmingham, AL, 2001
In 2001, Compeer of Birmingham initiated a cooperative effort with the local Habitat for Humanity, the first such project of it’s kind. With full funding of $45,000 from Forest Laboratories, workers whose lives were affected by mental illness (e.g., consumers, family members, mental health workers) built a Habitat home for a family that included a member with a physical disability.
*Dane County, Madison, Wisconsin
As pioneers in community mental health services, Dane County services are referred to as the Madison Model. An important aspect of this model is the Program of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT). Dane County provides a full range of community services including Yahara House, established on the clubhouse model. It is also a training ground for mental health professionals from around the world.
*Fountain House, New York, NY
Founded in 1948, Fountain House is the original “clubhouse,“ and they have actively encourage world-wide expansion of the clubhouse model. Today there are over 400 clubhouses in 30 countries. New York’s Fountain House now includes a rural version of the clubhouse model, the 480-acre High Point Farm, a working farm in Northern New Jersey.
*Premier Lodge, Southfield, MI
Premier Lodge operates on the Fairweather Lodge model. This model encourages rehabilitation through a combination of self-governed residential facilities that are directly linked to self-governed employment opportunities. At Premier, consumers not only live together, but they address and resolve typical problems that arise in any group living situation. They are also responsible for the consumer owned and operated Ever-Glo Janitorial Service, which bids for contracts with commercial customers throughout the community. In addition, team members are active in various state and national mental health organizations and committees. D & M Consultants, Inc. (a not-for-profit corporation started in 1986) also operates a second lodge along with two semi-independent apartment programs.
*Rose Hill Center, Holly. MI
A private, non-profit rehabilitation facility, founded in 1992 by the parents of a young man who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. After John Kelly showed remarkable improvement during his stay at Gould Farm (see below) in Massachusetts, his father, a successful businessman decided to build a Gould Farm type facility closer to home. Dan Kelly used his business experience and expertise to raise money for the building of this residential treatment and rehabilitation, located on a 372 acre pastoral setting in Southeastern Michigan. Here residents, who have been diagnosed with mental illness, gain the independence and skills that will prepare them to return to the community as responsible citizens.
*The Village Integrated Service Agency, Long Beach, CA
“ The Village’s Designed Care Approach is a Menu Driven approach. . .[offering] an array of options for members which supports individuated services in all quality of life areas (i.e. employment, residence, social, substance abuse, etc).” Staff focus on encouraging members “free choice of any menu option at any time”
*Thresholds Psychiatric Rehabilitation Centers, Chicago, Illinois
In 1957 Chicago’s National Council of Jewish Women sponsored a social program to help former mental patients transition into the community. Today Thresholds has 22 service locations and more than 40 housing developments in the area. They sponsor a host of other programs and business enterprises including Urban Meadows, a commercial flower shop, staffed by consumers and housed in the lobby of a landmark office building in Chicago’s financial district
*Way Station, Inc. Frederick, Maryland
Begun in 1978 by concerned members of the Frederick County Mental Health Association, Way Station now serves 3,500 clients with diverse programs operating in or from a new 30,000 square foot two story building located in Frederick’s Historic District. Their vocational program has partnered with ± 50 local businesses to provide jobs for Way Station clients. Clients are also providers of volunteer services for other community sites and projects. Way Station provides or helps to find housing for clients in a variety of residential settings, including, for some, independent living in their own home or apartment
American Residential Treatment Association (ARTA)
ARTA was founded in 1992 and offers a directory of privately financed residential treatment programs for adults with psychiatric disorders. From their web-site there are links to 25 unique member facilities / programs. From this one site it is possible to for consumers and family members to compare the environment and services offered in order to identify a program that best fills their needs. Rose Hill Center (described above), Gould Farm and Spring Lake Ranch (both listed below) are just two of the 25 programs that are members of ARTA.
Clergy Outreach and Professional Engagement (COPE)
Communities exist at all levels, nested within one another, and the neighborhood church can certainly function as a community. Glen Milstein, PhD., professor of psychology at The City College of the City University of New York has developed the COPE model to “facilitate the continuity of mental health care, through collaboration between clergy and clinicians.” The COPE model gives the church community an opportunity to accept mental illness and to help the client to live with their diagnosis. Information about implementation and outcomes of this model can be found at Dr. Milstein’s web-site (click on COPE, above) where one can gain access to all of his publications.
CooperRiis, Mill Spring, North Carolina
A 80 acre healing farm community, located 45 miles NE of Asheville and modeled after Vermont’s Spring Lake Ranch. Here residents participate in Recovery and Life Skills Programs and can also participate in CooperRiis’s four level Community Program, allowing them to transition into community work, schooling and/or independent living. In addition, “graduates” of CooperRiis become members of an Alumni Network, offering peer support to sustain recovery. Former residents / students can also partake of up to a week of on-site respite. (Click here for additional information based on the residential sabbatical experience of Warren Wilson Psychology Department Chair, Robert A. Swoap, PhD, and his family.)
Gould Farm, Monterey, Massachusetts
Founded in 1913 on 650 acres in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, this is considered to be America’s oldest therapeutic community for people with mental illness. It provides a community where residents can work and learn new job skills. When they are ready, residents may transition into a larger community in the Boston area.
Skyland Trail, Atlanta Georgia
A product of the George West Mental Health Foundation, the first Skyland Trails treatment facility opened in 1989. Today Skyand Trails is comprises of three campuses: a long-term residential facility, a short-term residential facility, and a Health and Education Center for community-based therapy. Their innovative and individualized treament programs focus on all aspects of an individual’s sense of well being: mental, physical, and social. Skyland Trail is also affiliated with Emory Univerisity’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences for clinical services and research.
Spring Lake Ranch, Cuttingsville, Vermont
Established in 1932, by Wayne Sarcka, a Finnish immigrant, and his Long Island wife, Elizabeth Man. Situated by a mountain lake, the programs and social environment were inspired, in part, by Elizabeth’s belief in the value of family life and her familiarity with the Geel community. Residents come to the Ranch from hospitals, home or schools, needing some type of structure and nurturing but not hospitalization. A typical stay is 6-8 months and many leave to enter an after-care program in a nearby community of 18,000. Even while experiencing community integration, however, they can still participate in activities and services at the Ranch.
(NOTE: This list is acknowledged to be incomplete. If you know of a program that deserves to be included in this list, please send the author a brief, one paragraph, description of that program along with supporting documents, or references, attesting to the success of that program.)