Clubhouse Stories

How Clubhouses Help Members Thrive: The Compass House Story
January 1, 2016

By Matthew Vorderstrasse, Executive Director, Compass House, Oregon

“I believe that in Oregon we are entering into a new dawn of opportunity, and that the Clubhouse Model will become a model that every community will want to replicate, and we will be here to help them do it.”

I remember my first visit to a Clubhouse. It was Carriage House in Fort Wayne, IN, and our group from Oregon was attending the New Clubhouse Development Training. We are forever grateful for the New Clubhouse Development Training, because 13 months after attending that training, Compass House opened its doors and began its journey as a Clubhouse. However, the journey of opening a Clubhouse begins long before we open our doors. In the community of Jackson County we had nothing that even remotely looked like a Clubhouse, and it was desperately needed, and with the climate of healthcare change the timing was right to introduce a model that was evidence based, but new to Oregon.

In 2012, Stacy Brubaker became the Division Manager of Jackson County Mental Health. When Stacy arrived in Southern Oregon, she realized that there were no Clubhouses, and thus introduced the community to the model, and rallied the County’s support to make it happen. I was then the Vice Chair of the County’s Mental Health Advisory Committee, and was looking for a volunteer commitment, and that was what tied me into this. From Stacey’s initial presentation we developed our working group that drove our Clubhouse project through to completion.

That is the spark that got us going.

When we first heard of the Clubhouse Model, we did our best to wrap our heads around it, but still struggled with how it all works, but despite this initial struggle everything seemed to align itself perfectly for us. Alliance House connected Stacy with Jack Yatsko, and within a few months after our group formed, we were headed to the New Clubhouse Development (NCD) training at Carriage House. From there everything changed. We saw our first Clubhouse, we developed an action plan that acted as our roadmap. A fire was lit, and as Jack stated, “we went gangbusters” in our community.

We held our first workshop for Strategic Planning, and came up with our mission, vision, values, and name of our Clubhouse. Giving us an identity helped immensely, and as we did all the legal paperwork for the non-profit name change, we also began searching for granters. We met with community leaders, and gathered letters of support, and managed to garner support from local foundations. We held a meet and greet event that over 100 people from the community came to, and we established lasting media relationships that gave us plenty of press coverage before we ever opened.

As money and support began to accumulate, we began searching for a property, and eventually secured a location. As all of these pieces continued to fall into place, we were also working to hire our Executive Director. Obviously, this person is me, otherwise this might be a little awkward right now. However, we did a competitive process, and opened the job up to the community, and posted it with Clubhouse International. I nervously submitted my resume, and letters of recommendation, interviewed, and the result is self-evident at this point.

Once I was hired we finalized the contract with Jackson County Mental Health, which would give us startup funds, and imbedded staff inside of Compass House (they didn’t come immediately). We finished the lease, and began the permit process for the remodel, and we headed off for our Colleague Training at Alliance House. Our clock was ticking and we were just a few months away from opening.

Upon our return at the end of May 2014 from the colleague training our deadlines were abundant, and we surged to meet them, with the goal of opening our doors. We painted, met with contractors, wrote for more grants, and began moving in.

In our first year of operating we found that 97% of our active members had 0 hospitalizations, and 96% had 0 jail stays. We are now working with Klamath County and Lincoln County to establish Clubs in their communities. We are branching out to join statewide boards, and task forces to further promote the Clubhouse Model. Our goal is to spread the Clubhouse Model around the State of Oregon, and to one day be able to stand up here and not just tell you the story of Compass House, but tell you how Clubhouse Oregon has changed the world of mental health care in our State.

Doing this takes a community, and that community must hold a shared vision of Clubhouse. This vision cannot live in a vacuum, or only be held by one person, but it has to breathe through all of us, working together to create it. Demosthenes once wrote that Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises.” I believe that in Oregon we are entering into a new dawn of opportunity, and that the Clubhouse Model will become a model that every community will want to replicate, and we will be here to help them do it.