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Tia Burroughs Clayton, MSS
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Social Enterprises for Mental Health Recovery

Fountain House

Social Enterprises for Mental Health Recovery Logo

Program Website
Year:
2019
State:
New York
Winner Status:
Honorable Mention
Program Type:
Training and Skill Building
Target Population:
Individuals with Serious Mental Illness
Setting:
Community

Nature of the Problem

In 2016, the US Census Bureau reported that in New York over 517,000 adults live with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. This population is usually severely isolated from society, lives in precarious environments that make recovery difficult and are often left with little to no viable employment opportunities. Additionally, the employment opportunities for people living with serious mental illness usually incorporate a “sheltered workshop” model that Fountain House and many behavioral health experts state limit the therapeutic value of working in a real place of business and its segregated nature creates a greater sense of vocational isolation. Fountain House has created an innovative approach to employ adults living with a serious mental illness and support mental health recovery by having people living with mental illness be active participants in society through supported employment programs. In response to this need and the radical decrease in job opportunities due to heightened security concerns after September 11, 2001, an increased in outsourced jobs, and a deep loss of employment opportunities during the economic downturn of 2008, Fountain House was implored to evolve its employment program and its development of social enterprises began.

Program Description

Fountain House social enterprises achieve a double bottom-line. The social enterprise program offers affordable, top-quality services to clients while providing employees from traditionally marginalized populations with the opportunity to enter the workforce and obtain invaluable job skills. Through innovative and entrepreneurial ventures, members learn industry specific skills that are transferable in the marketplace. Fountain House staff and members have played a critical role in identifying niche markets that can be highly profitable, developing business plans and organizing resources and members to operate social enterprises. The Social Enterprises currently in operation include Wildlife Works (administrative support for other social enterprises), Jack Rabbit Deliveries (food delivery service), Bee Well (peer supports), and Bluebird Designs (landscaping and floral designs). Currently, Fountain House is starting a new social enterprise in Manhattan. Fountain House: Home and Body will be Fountain House’s largest employment program that provides over 70 people living with mental illness work experience each year. Job positions include customer service representatives, soap-makers, aroma therapeutic coordinators, and sales representatives. Fountain House’s social enterprise programs are designed to create alternative employment opportunities and encourage entrepreneurship among members.

Disruption

Fountain House believes one of the main paths to mental health recovery is through employment. Its social enterprises provide members the opportunity to showcase their talents and reshape the national conversation on mental health beyond the Fountain House clubhouse and current network of supporters. Working in a Fountain House social enterprise is a therapeutic process for members. The jobs help members regain confidence, foster self-worth, and reduce social isolation while being immersed back in society. By having members work in the community, the organization and its members help combat the stigma around mental illness. Additionally, members gain income that helps them build their path to independence and recovery. The Fountain House social enterprise model proves people with mental illness can lead fulfilling lives that reduce social exclusion, suicide, and endless cycles of hospitalization and incarceration.

Leadership

Social Enterprises have a long and successful history of integrating individuals with disabilities into a vocational life while reducing the stigma attached to disabilities. What makes Fountain House unique is its focus on individuals with severe mental illness. Fountain House provides innovative social interventions for people living with chronic depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia that help adults manage their mental health recovery. The organization’s programs raise mental health awareness and help destigmatize the concept of what people living with serious mental illness can contribute to society. It addresses the issue of social isolation and overcomes social stigma through an evidence-based approach that focuses on providing employment opportunities; enabling people to gain financial inclusion. Additionally, Fountain House provides wellness programs, paths to education, housing and critical community-building activities that help members gain essential resources and health tools to maintain jobs.

Scalability

Moving forward, Fountain House seeks to continue to utilize social enterprises to support mental health recovery and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and share its social enterprise model with over 330 Fountain House replications in 36 countries. During its seventy years of operation, Fountain House has built a strong network of partners and funders and has been recently acknowledged for its employment program by the Mayor’s Office.

Results/Outcomes

New social enterprises led by Fountain House will employ over 70 members with employment opportunities in Manhattan. Social enterprises will engage in quarterly outreach activities to engage neighborhood business in mental health awareness activities and to raise awareness of innovative mental illness recovery models through employment. Fountain House social enterprises will pay members minimum wage and use it as social intervention and community outreach tools to encourage other mental illness recovery organizations to replicate the Fountain House social enterprise model.