Program helps people with severe mental illness integrate into society

People with mental illness find a place to get help in a recovery-through-work program. And Florida is one of the only places with a housing option.

MIAMI – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-in-25 Americans lives with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, PTSD or major depression.

An accredited recovery-through-work program is helping improve the lives of adults with severe mental illness.

”Good afternoon, Key Clubhouse of South Florida,” said Veronica Lallan, who is a part of the program and donates her time at the front desk.

In the rooms around her, it’s a busy day.

The people here are developing the skills to be productive members of society despite their mental illness.

”Many people have not worked in years due to their illness but we get them practicing, get them back in the workforce,” said executive director Debra Webb.

The participants, known as “members,” join voluntarily and are trained in different aspects of daily living.

”We’re not a medical model, we’re a vocational rehabilitation model but most importantly we build a restorative community so it’s stigma-free.  You don’t have to talk about your mental illness, we don’t do support groups, what we do is build relationships just like you would build in your workplace,” Webb said.

Members must be referred by mental health professionals and then screened for participation.

The program is free of charge, supported by funding from the State, County, Grants and private donations.

”At first I was like, ‘Should I, should I not come?’, and ever since I’ve been in the Key clubhouse it has been amazing.  It has helped me so much,” said member Leticia Gomez.

”Now I’m more happy, you know, before I was in the dark, I felt like I was in a box and nobody cared about me until I got here.  I feel like ‘home’,” said Lallan.

There are 330 Key Clubhouse’s throughout the world, 13 in Florida.

The South Florida Key Clubhouse currently has 150 active members and is the first to also offer housing.

About the Authors:

Veteran journalist Kathleen Corso is the special projects producer for Local 10 News.

Kristi Krueger has built a solid reputation as an award-winning medical reporter and effervescent anchor. She joined Local 10 in August 1993. After many years co-anchoring the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., Kristi now co-anchors the noon newscasts, giving her more time in the evening with her family.