Kate’s Place Clubhouse: Integrating behavioral health care, support in communities

'There is no health without mental health.'

At the annual meeting of the Florida Hospital Association last month, more than 450 hospital leaders, clinicians, policymakers, and other health care stakeholders gathered to discuss the trends, opportunities, and challenges facing hospitals in the Sunshine State.

Behavioral health featured prominently among the topics, specifically how to strengthen community-based services and support and integrate services into various community settings.

The need for behavioral health treatment and support is higher than ever. Nearly one-third of U.S. adults report symptoms of depression or anxiety. That’s three times as many as in 2019. One in 25 adults has a serious mental illness like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

Among the panels of experts were members of Kate’s Place Clubhouse, an Orlando-based program providing a restorative environment for adults living with the effects of a mental illness and co-occurring disorders. Clubhouses operate in more than 30 countries and provide members with opportunities for friendship, training, education, employment, and other community-based support.

Four Kate’s Place members sat down with FHA CEO Mary Mayhew to share their stories. “This is our opportunity to hear from all of you,” said Mayhew. “Not a lot of people around this state know what a clubhouse is. Tell us how this clubhouse changed your life.”

Jessica, Jose, Melody, and James shared their personal experiences, underscoring how increased access to community-based mental health services and support can lead to better outcomes and greater quality of life. These intimate stories gave heart and meaning to the data and policy discussions, combining both the personal and the empirical into an impossible-to-ignore imperative to strengthen the collective commitment to behavioral health.

Jessica spoke of her experiences being in and out of hospitals and group homes since she was 16. That was until she found Kate’s Place, where she got the support she needed to be able to find and maintain stable employment. In October, Jessica celebrated her 10-year work anniversary at Target.

As Jessica revealed this accomplishment, everyone in the room celebrated with her.

“I would recommend a Clubhouse to anyone struggling,” shared Jessica. “Not only with mental illness but also a saddened heart or a substance abuse issue. Clubhouse has been there for me. And I’m so happy to have that as part of my life.”

While some find employment in the community with support from their Clubhouse, others contribute their skills and talents to support Clubhouse’s operations. Jose has been a Kate’s Place member for 12 years, and he has held a variety of different positions on-site, growing his skill set and cultivating self-confidence.

“Through the program, I’ve learned how to edit videos,” explained Jose. I’ve gained experience in clerical work. Now, I work in the kitchen to create meals. It keeps me busy and gives me the opportunity to contribute.”

Clubhouse members also forge meaningful friendships and receive peer support, both of which foster a deep sense of belonging, which is at the heart of the Clubhouse model.

“Before Clubhouse, I was kind of isolated. I was in a situation where my family was scattered — St. Louis, New York, Missouri, and the UK. So, I really didn’t have family around to support me,” shared James. “When I came to Clubhouse, I found people who were like me and who were attentive to my needs.”

Jessica, Jose, Melody, and James received a standing ovation from the audience, demonstrating not only the power of personal stories to inspire, motivate, and inform commitment to change but also the impact of wraparound services, meaningful work and friendships, and a support system for those living with mental illness to achieve and maintain recovery and lead a personally satisfying life.

The Kate’s Place Clubhouse panel was followed by a discussion with behavioral health professionals and leaders who reiterated the critical need not just for hospital- or clinic-centered treatment, like therapy and medications, but also for peer support, employment, and housing in a holistic, integrated approach to behavioral health care.

“There is no health without mental health,” said Gail Ryder, vice president, Behavioral Health Services, Bay Care, during the panel discussion. “You have to integrate physical health and mental health, or we’re not going to get the outcomes that we need.”

“You can no longer locate behavioral health services in one place — in a clinic, behind a hospital. You have to infuse it into the community,” according to Jay Reeve, president and CEO of the Apalachee Center. “If you don’t provide access to mental health in a variety of community settings, you’re not going to reach people where they need it.”

The Florida Hospital Association works alongside the Florida Legislature, state agencies, health care providers, and community organizations to advocate for resources and policies that facilitate more timely access to behavioral health treatment and that support prevention, education, and innovative care models. One of its priorities is expanding Florida’s commitment to the Community Mental Health Model to help people become productive and fully flourishing members of their communities.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of FloridaPolitics.com, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


  • Julia

    November 24, 2023 at 4:52 pm

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  • Norma Jean

    November 29, 2023 at 6:22 am

    What an inspiring initiative! Integrating behavioral health care support in communities is a crucial step towards fostering mental health awareness and accessibility. “Kate’s Place Clubhouse” seems to be making a significant impact by creating a supportive environment for individuals in need.

    In the spirit of community well-being, I’d like to mention the importance of relationship counseling: https://calmerry.com/relationship-counseling/
    As we address mental health at a community level, understanding and nurturing healthy relationships contribute immensely to overall well-being. Relationship counseling can play a pivotal role in providing guidance and support for individuals navigating the complexities of their personal connections.

    It’s heartening to see community-focused initiatives like “Kate’s Place Clubhouse” taking a comprehensive approach to mental health. By combining behavioral health care with resources like relationship counseling, we can create more resilient and connected communities. Kudos to the efforts being made to promote mental health at a grassroots level! 🌟💙✨

Comments are closed.


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