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Key Clubhouse offers holistic mental health services

Program targets individuals with substance abuse

Carla St.Louis | 3/27/2014, 9 a.m.
Dorlis Philius, a member of Key Clubhouse, smiles with his first paycheck after getting a new job with the help of the Clubhouse.

Twenty-five. That’s the amount of individuals it took daily to push the small Key Clubhouse, that included five 1,200 feet oblong tables designated for employment, orientations and other tasks to its capacity. Once the Clubhouse expanded its membership, it needed to relocate to bigger and better headquarters.

On the ground floor of Dr. Barbara Carey-Shuler Manor located at 1400 NW 54th Street, at least 50 individuals

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Murray Haddock, a member of Key Clubhouse, filing documents in the Clubhouse’s business unit.

packed the Clubhouse’s new facility to celebrate its relocation on March 14.

The Clubhouse is a peer run consumer service where “members”—never referred to as “clients”--are more likely to reach their breakthrough by communicating and interacting with other members as opposed to the staff.

“This community desperately needs a Clubhouse; it needs mental health services,” said Executive Director Stephanie Solovei when discussing Brownsville in a candid interview. “In fact so many individuals won’t go to get deeper-end mental health services because there’s a lot of stigma involved in that.”

The facility, an anomaly as it treats mental illness from a holistic approach, is located in an area where individuals suffer from co-occurring multiple illness, specifically substance abuse and serious mental illness.

“They are not being touched by the system and ultimately self-medicate instead of using psycho drugs to medicate themselves,” Solovei said. “It’s always a bad combination,” she said and refers to it as “co-current disorders.”

Through the non-profit organization, members are taken on an unorthodox path to recovery: They work side by side with staffers to accomplish computing jobs, culinary tasks, housekeeping and handling finances. Solovei said it works because members, who are at their own stages of mental illness, are more open to take wisdom and advice from someone who has undergone it.

A member for a year and a half, Barbara Smith*, a refined woman with a chic raven-colored bob, 61, knows the path to recovery at Clubhouse relies heavily on group interactions.

“It really changed me in a very positive way,” said Smith, who suffered from depression after relocating from Paris, France to Miami-Dade County. “I found a supportive group of diverse individuals who are at different levels of managing mental illness such as depression and it improved my quality of living.”

Erick “Whip” Whippla, 41, who suffers from a dual diagnosis of substance abuse and another addiction-related illness credits the Key Clubhouse for teaching him self-respect.

“It’s just a constant reminder of where I was,” he said as he pulls out his identification card where he served time during the early 90s from the Department of Corrections and lays it on the table. “They taught me coping skills and positive reinforcement, helping me to realize that my past doesn’t dictate my present or future. They don’t look at me like anything but a person.”

The Clubhouse treats individuals with serious and persistent mental illness such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

On the back end, members also play a leading role in community outreach and recruitment, fundraising and even publishing newsletters.