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Clubhouse-style aid comes to Lakeville

LAKEVILLE — The Compass Center at 24 Sharon Road (Route 41) is a new clubhouse-style facility for area residents struggling with mental health issues. The facility is a joint project of Prime Time House and Community Mental Health Affiliates (which now runs what was formerly the Northwest Center for Mental Health and Family Services).David Giannini, lead rehabilitation counselor, described what the “clubhouse” model offers.“We provide employment services, and a place to socialize. The expectation is that clients will be working at something.”The members vote on clubhouse affairs: the shopping list, the newsletter, even the name of the clubhouse.“We have a genuine need for members because they do everything,” Gianinni said.Compass Center opened last November and now has 26 members. At an open house in its new Lakeville location on Friday, Sept. 30, staff and members from the Torrington clubhouse mingled with the Lakeville group.One client has taken on the role of receptionist, learning how to use email in the process.“The communication piece is huge,” said Gianinni. “It opens up a whole new world.”Another client said she comes to Compass “for friendship, cameraderie. It’s a nice place to socialize.”And for the person who suffers from mental illness and the isolation from society that often accompanies it, simple things such as helping to fix lunch or sweep up have enormous ramifications. Getting involved with Compass is as simple as making a phone call, Gianinni said.“They call, we invite them over, and then get a more formal referral” from a doctor.Compass is part of Prime Time House, Inc. in Torrington, and operates a clubhouse there. Last November Prime Time announced a joint effort with Community Mental Health Affiliates to provide services to individuals with mental illness in the towns of Northwest Corner.Prime Time Executive Director David Ostrom said Prime Time/Compass Center will be able to offer community and outreach support as well as its existing supported employment program to more people.The Rural Mental Health Initiative is a supported employment program for adults with serious, persistent mental illness and co-occurring disorders.“We engage with local employers and assist with employment opportunities,” Ostrom said. Sometimes this involves some persuasion — convincing an employer to give someone a chance.And the client gets help in assembling a resume, job coaching, interview techniques.“We’ve even got a small fund to buy someone a clean button-down shirt.”The long-term goal is to establish an access center that would continue the supported employment model, increase access for socializing activities for those with chronic and severe mental illness and maintain a community-based service in this part of the state, where public transportation is almost nonexistent and current supports are few and far between.Prime Time also runs the Prime Finds shop in Sharon at 1 Gay St. (across Route 41 from the Good Neighbors building and the post office).The store, which features home furnishings donated by community members and Prime Time House supporters, serves as a means of raising funds for Prime Time, and provides members with an opportunity to get some job experience and build up confidence.“This is not adult day care,” said Ostrom. “We need to give these people someplace to go, for meaningful conversation.”At Compass, one woman said, “I am needed, I have a role, I contribute.”For more information on the Compass Center visit primetimehouse.org or call 860-596-0545.

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