PETOSKEY – Twelve companies were recognized at the Michigan State Capitol during Mental Health Awareness Month for diversifying their workforces by employing adults with mental illness, with support from Clubhouse programs at across Michigan.
The event was organized by Clubhouse Michigan, a coalition of Clubhouses dedicated to serving adults with mental illness in all regions of the state. Michigan senators and state legislators presented awards to companies in recognition of their commitment and leadership in helping people with mental health issues gain employment, helping to dispel the stigma of mental illness, which is so often a barrier to full recovery and community integration. . The awards were presented in front of a crowd of more than 100 people, including Clubhouse members, their employers, Clubhouse staff and state legislators.
Samantha Sprague, owner of the Game Realm in Petoskey, was on hand to receive an award, along with two of the Petoskey Club members who work at the Game Realm, Catherine Rubino and Kandyce Alworden.
According to Jama Moffett, Director of the Petoskey Club, what makes Sprague’s award particularly meaningful is that “Samantha is a former Petoskey Club member who went on to start her own business and now helps others on their journey as well.” .
After receiving the award, Sprague shared the following sentiment, “I was a bit hesitant to accept the award because I didn’t do it for the recognition. When I was at the Petoskey Club, they helped me to open up and gave me the courage to open my own business. I can’t thank you enough for all the Petoskey Club has done for me and others, and I’m so happy to be able to do this little something to help others.
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 employment at Game Realm, my self-confidence and sense of worth have increased in many significant ways. I learned a lot about myself being part of the team. This experience continues to make me a better person.
Alworden, who was the first transitional employment worker at Game Realm, and now works in a supported employment position there, helped train Rubino for transitional employment. Alworden said that “…working at Game Realm has been a learning experience doing more thorough sorting and grading, which has given me the confidence to take on additional responsibilities and has helped me to have less afraid to talk with people.”
Moffett noted, “…employment is a powerful recovery tool for people struggling with mental illness. Due to 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 venture. At this event, we honor forward-thinking employers who have gone beyond preconceptions to discover what our support programs can do to drive success. They have hired our Clubhouse members, found them to be willing and dependable employees, and set a positive example for other employers, demonstrating that our members are great employees, and our program is there to support them.
The lodges 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 fellow staff, which is inherently rehabilitating and promotes recovery. Many members are interested in gainful employment, so the Clubhouse offers transitional employment and supported employment opportunities through partnerships with local businesses. In transitional jobs, members work six to nine months and receive training and absence coverage is provided by Clubhouse staff placement managers. In supported employment, a link established between the Clubhouse and the employer helps the member secure employment, with optional training offered, as well as ongoing support being available. Estimates put the combined income of Clubhouse members at nearly $2.7 million a year in Michigan.
Moffett added, “…there are over 200 Clubhouses across the United States supporting over 45,000 adults in their recovery. We are fortunate to have over 40 clubs right here in Michigan, more than any other state.
Petoskey Club is a community mental health program in North Country. If you would like to learn more about the Petoskey Club, contact Jama Moffett, Director, at (231) 347-1786.