Throughout the United States, people who have been diagnosed with a mental illness have found support, encouragement, and empowerment through a type of service called the drop in center. For many people diagnosed with a mental illness drop in centers have become essential support systems to improve their quality of life. Due to stigma and misunderstanding in regard to mental illness, many people with a mental illness do not have a social support system and/or community that are accepting and supportive of them. People with a mental illness can visit the drop in center to seek support from other peers, participate in social activities, and seek help in obtaining services and benefits or to simply have fun. The drop in center provides a safe, supportive, accepting environment for the membership.
The drop in center provides members with an opportunity that other traditional clinical services do not offer in that they are member driven and operated. Members develop their own governing boards, hire a coordinator and plan their own activities, establish rules of behavior, schedules and are responsible for the daily operation of the center. Members feel empowered and develop a sense of responsibility and self-worth that may not be possible through other traditional clinical services. Drop in centers focus on recovery and developing a path to attain personal goals rather than focus on illness. Recovery from mental illness is possible. Recovery does not mean that a person will no longer have a diagnosis of depression, bi-polar disorder, or schizophrenia; rather, recovery is developing a new meaning and purpose in life – it is a way of living a satisfying, hopeful, and contributing life.
The Serenity Center is a peer operated service for people who have a severe and persistent mental illness.
The Serenity Center came into existence in 1999, over 12 years ago. Initially the drop in center evolved from the psychosocial rehabilitation program, formerly called the Club House. Members at the Club House determined that they did not want to participate in a work ordered day as required by the program. Instead, the Members requested that they have available a center where they could gather, socialize and determine their own program/service desires and needs. The Members wanted a program that they could own and take responsibility for. As a result, the Club House was closed, a board of directors developed, a director for the drop in was hired, and the new name, Serenity Center, was chosen by the membership.
The Serenity center is important to the membership. Many of the members have expressed that the drop in is of great help to them in their recovery providing a safe, accepting environment where they can attain support, encouragement, and have a voice in what they want to have happen in their lives. Many members have no or limited family or friends. The center is a place for them to cultivate friends, feel included in the community and where they can share their strengths, skills and abilities with others. Membership at the center has continued to increase as other individuals become aware of the program and members have found a kinship.
Gogebic Community Mental Health has come to understand the significance and benefit of the Center as it has increased socialization for members and the center has offered many community activities and functions that consumers and non-consumers participate in. Consumer participation in the drop in center helps in their road to recovery and empowerment. The center helps to provide a meaningful structure to their daily lives, integrates members into the community, and provides learning opportunities and a place to go for support and help. CMH recognizes the independence of the center in its governing board, but also acknowledges CMH’s role in assuring that the center has all of the equipment and resources that it requires to remain successful. Both CMH and the center look forward to a long and successful partnership.
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