City Council Members, Clubhouse Participants Rally to Save Mental Health Clubhouses

Council Members release letter calling for revisions in city plan 

CONTACT: Trish Anderton, Goddard Riverside | 929-249-1449 

[Jan. 3, 2024, New York City] Members of the NY City Council joined dozens of clubhouse participants this morning at a rally to save smaller mental health clubhouses in the city. 

Mental health clubhouses are an essential source of community and a pathway towards recovery for adults living with mental illness. They help members develop the skills and resources needed to thrive, such as jobs, housing, education and strong social networks. While rally participants praised the mayor’s goal of expanding the clubhouse system, they said the current plan to do so would create new, larger clubhouses while forcing most existing ones to close—destroying long-established communities of care that are working for members every day. 

“I have a lot of friends at my clubhouse and I really look forward to spending time with the people,” said Calvin Franklin, who attends Brooklyn Community Services’ Greater Heights Clubhouse. “I hope the city understands how important it is to keep Greater Heights open because it is a good place, and most importantly, to me, it is my place!!” 

“In my years as a social worker before taking office, I know clubhouses and related programs have transformed the lives of people experiencing severe mental illness. Our City is grappling with a mental health crisis that currently requires a community-oriented response to ensure that these individuals have vital support to get them back on their feet,” said Council Member Linda Lee, Chair of the Committee on Mental Health, Disabilities, and Addictions. “While the Administration’s goal to invest in clubhouses is admirable, the RFP released by DOHMH creates the risk of closing smaller clubhouses across the city. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the mental health challenges of each individual, and there is value in the close-knit, intimate functions that these smaller programs can provide. I thank all of the advocates and my colleagues who share in this passion to amend this RFP to ensure we provide the quality mental health services every New Yorker deserves.”  

Lee also released a letter, available on request, signed by twenty council members to the mayor and the commissioner of the Department of Mental Health and Hygiene today.  

“As a community, we must prioritize support for those battling mental illness. The Club Houses serve as beacons of hope and recovery, and it’s imperative that we adapt regulations to ensure their uninterrupted operation,” said Council Member Lynn Schulman, Chair of the Health Committee. “Let’s stand together in advocating for change to safeguard these vital spaces for the well-being and resilience of our fellow New Yorkers.” 

“We are very grateful for the Mayor’s firm commitment expand access to clubhouse programs to serve as a primary resource for our most unengaged and underserved New Yorkers, “said Harvey Rosenthal, CEO of the Alliance for Rights and Recovery (formerly NYAPRS), a coalition that originated in 1981 to advocate for clubhouses and their members across the state. “At the same time, we believe the procurement process needs to be given more time to be reconfigured to allow a broader diversity of differently sized and situated programs to thrive, rather than to close their doors during a time where they’ve never been needed more.” 

The mayor’s initiative would invest up to $30 million, more than doubling city and state funding for clubhouses. But the city is requiring the facilities to have 300 members and an average daily attendance of 90—a standard met by only a few of the 350 clubhouses in the world. 

Clubhouse members and supporters applauded the investment, but called for the required membership to be lowered so that smaller, community-based Clubhouses can thrive and grow. Members have led a campaign to press for changes in the plan, including an online petition that has garnered nearly 3,000 signatures. Many have posted passionate statements in support of their clubhouses. 

“Enrolling at [AHRC New York’s] Job Connection Center Clubhouse gave me a safe place to go daily and establish a routine to pick up some skills to enhance my life,” said clubhouse member Rodney Chery. “They helped me reach many of my goals. That is why I want it to remain open.”