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News

Community Investment Increases Vaccination Rates for People with SMI
September 15, 2021

A new report published by the Treatment Advocacy Center and Clubhouse International identifies key barriers to, and facilitators of, COVID-19 vaccination among people with severe mental illness through an international survey of more than 100 Clubhouses. Shown here: Journey House Utah Covid Vaccination Clinic! Click here to view the full report.

Today’s Press Release:

New International Survey Shows Concerted Community Investment Increases Vaccination Rates for People with Severe Mental Illness

Report finds multiple barriers to COVID-19 vaccination, beyond hesitancy, among this vulnerable population

ARLINGTON, Va. – A new survey finds that while people living with severe mental illness face significant barriers to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, targeted outreach and engagement in community settings leads to significantly higher vaccination rates and increased safety for this population. People with severe mental illness have a high risk of death from COVID-19 and the results of the research shows that community investment led to higher estimated rates of vaccination compared to the general public.

The report, “COVID-19 Vaccination for People with Severe Mental Illness: An International Survey,” published today by the Treatment Advocacy Center and Clubhouse International, identifies key barriers to and facilitators of COVID-19 vaccination among people with severe mental illness through an international survey of more than 100 Clubhouses – community facilities created to support individuals living with mental illness through employment, education and wellness programs – conducted between May 18 to June 11, 2021.

The survey found that barriers participants experienced went beyond vaccine hesitancy and included limited access to preventive health services and an overall lack of resources to access vaccines, such as not being able to register for an appointment or travel to a vaccine clinic. While concerns about safety and side effects of the vaccine are the top two reasons why people with serious mental illness may not get the vaccine, the study also found that the sharing of experiences among peers is one of the most effective tools in changing minds around vaccination.

Overall, estimated vaccination rates of U.S.-based Clubhouse members are, on average, significantly higher than that of the U.S. population. Of the 105 U.S.-based Clubhouses that participated in the survey, 64 had a higher rate of vaccination than their surrounding county and 24 had the same rate of vaccine uptake as their county.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a devastating impact on the world, the successful efforts of Clubhouses to facilitate vaccination should be seen as an example of the benefits that targeted outreach and support programs can have for people living with serious mental illness,” said Elizabeth Sinclair Hancq, director of research for Treatment Advocacy Center. “These individuals are at higher risk for severe illness or death from COVID-19 and deserve to be prioritized. A successful COVID-19 vaccination effort must prioritize people with serious mental illness, make the vaccines accessible and conduct outreach to this population to increase the number of individuals willing to take the vaccine.”

The survey’s findings indicate that community investment in and peer-to-peer engagement with people with serious mental illness can have a tremendous impact on their health and well-being. Hosting physician-led workshops to share the medical facts of the vaccine and encouraging discussions among community members who were vaccinated and those who were not were key ways to reduce vaccine hesitancy.

The creation of vaccination clinics where people with severe mental illness are living was also a successful method to increase vaccination rates among members, further supporting public health experts’ recommendations that trusted community providers’ development of vaccination sites maximizes COVID-19 vaccination among vulnerable populations.

“The results of this important project demonstrate once again the powerful health benefits of belonging to a community in which inclusion and meaningful relationships are the priority,” said Joel Corcoran, executive director and CEO of Clubhouse International. “Clubhouses across the world prioritize wellness and healthy lifestyles as part of a holistic approach to addressing the social and economic isolation so often associated with serious mental illness. It is clear that Clubhouse communities have been effective in assisting their members to get vaccinated during this life threatening pandemic.”

Treatment Advocacy Center continues to push for proper resources and support for people with serious mental illness to ensure that they are no longer ignored, in times of global health crises or otherwise. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, especially with the emergence of new variants, organizations that follow this community investment model are critical to protect individuals with severe mental illness.

“Research tells us that those with severe mental illness are at among the highest risk for death from COVID-19. Our survey shows that even a small amount of effort to promote life-saving vaccination has a tremendous impact on getting people protected. This achievement reminds us that assumptions that those with severe mental illness cannot be helped are simply wrong,” said Lisa Dailey, executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center.

The full survey report can be found here. To connect with Treatment Advocacy Center’s subject matter experts in severe mental illness policy or research, please contact: Alexa Lamanna, alamanna@westendstrategy.com, 202-320-2766. To learn more about Clubhouse International or to connect with Joel Corcoran, please contact Anna Sackett Rountree, asackett@clubhouse-intl.org, 212-582-0343 ext. 107.

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The Treatment Advocacy Center is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating barriers to the timely and effective treatment of severe mental illness by promoting laws, policies and practices for the delivery of psychiatric care and supporting the development of innovative treatments for and research into the causes of severe and persistent psychiatric illnesses, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Clubhouse International is a global nonprofit organization working to end social and economic isolation for people with mental illness, through its network of 326 Clubhouses in 31 countries, accessed by approximately 100,000 people each year. Clubhouses offer resources and opportunities for recovery through employment, education, friendship, wellness and social programs.

Clubhouse International provides New Clubhouse Development training and coordinates a system for ongoing Clubhouse trainings and quality assurance with a formal accreditation program based on The International Standards for Clubhouse Programs™. Additionally, we join advocacy initiatives focused on ending discrimination and addressing inadequate funding for mental healthcare around the world.

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