Commentary

Government Officials Have a Responsibility to Learn about Mental Illness and the Programs that Work

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Anyone with mental illness or disability can reach their full potential; they just need support to do it.

In the early 90’s I was fortunate to work with a start-up program in Maine focusing on enriching the lives of people affected by mental illness and disability. That program is thriving today and is still known as the High Hopes Clubhouse in Waterville.

The Clubhouse model promotes individual strengths to recover from the effects of mental illness sufficiently to lead a personally satisfying life; and a belief that work, and work-related relationships are healing.

High Hopes Clubhouse is Maine’s founding clubhouse and of four in our state. A major focus of the clubhouse movement is to assist its members into transitional employment. When I was general manager at Marden’s, we employed nearly 50 High Hopes members, many of whom earned their first paycheck through the company.

Last year, payrolls from active and former members totaled more than $1.5 million, which means these people are not only learning work skills, but they are taxpayers, too. In additional to the economic advantages, membership has demonstrated health benefits, as well. Studies show that membership in a clubhouse program results in a significant decrease in the number of hospitalizations. That’s why I was astonished to hear from members from across the country on a recent trip to a Clubhouse Conference in Washington, DC that other governors have not embraced this program.

This is not your run of the mill welfare program doling out money without a return on investment. Quite the opposite, it’s a program saving taxpayer dollars in turn empowering its members to contribute as a taxpayer and improving the overall health of the individual. Clubhouse support is a win-win, setting an individual on a path to long-term economic stability and minimizing taxpayer assistance needed by the individual.

I’m proud to say I support Clubhouses throughout Maine and the Nation and I’m confident if you take the time to learn about the services of this program that you’ll find it’s much more than a social program. It’s a place where dignity, purpose and confidence are restored and people are provided a well-deserved sense that they are contributors to their community, not dependents of it.

At the recent conference, dozens of clubhouse members approached me from many states, including, Maryland, South Carolina, Texas and Utah to name a few. They asked I reach out to their governors. So, I have. And I encourage clubhouse advocates to do the same. Government officials have a responsibility to run government effectively and efficiently as possible and part of that is to learn about taxpayer funded programs that work. Well, this one not only works, it is a proven success and it will only take a visit to your local clubhouse to understand why. Remember, you don’t work for the government, the government works for you. So, reach out to your officials and show your support for a clubhouse near you.

About Paul LePage

Governor Paul LePage (R) has served as the 74th Governor of Maine since 2011. Prior to his time as governor, LePage served as the general manager of Marden's and as the mayor of Waterville.

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