Grand Avenue Club Offers Critical Support to Mental Health Community

Grand Avenue Club Offers Critical Support to Mental Health Community

By: Paul Christensen, Ziino, Germanotta, Knoll & Christensen Will Hughes, Foley & Lardner LLP

In the heart of downtown Milwaukee, an effective organization has been providing essential services to some of the most vulnerable members of Milwaukee's community for nearly 30 years. Grand Avenue Club (GAC) was established as a non-profit organization in 1991 with a mission to provide opportunities and support to individuals with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression, or bipolar disorder, focusing on helping members live independently and with access to a community of friends, paid employment, post-secondary education, and recreational and social opportunities.

GAC does not utilize a traditional social service approach but implements the "clubhouse" model of psychiatric rehabilitation," meaning that the members work side-by-side with dedicated staff to operate the organization. GAC helps members prepare for paid employment and has established Milwaukee's most successful paid employment program for adults with mental illness, with members earning $1.7 million annually. GAC is an accredited clubhouse and therefore is an "evidence-based practice" according to the U.S. Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Organization. Its physical location (known as the Clubhouse) at 210 E. Michigan St. is a gathering space used by members for meals, support services, and leisure time with friends.

GAC provides benefits counseling, work support groups, and special events for members on evenings, weekends, and holidays. Members are involved in every aspect of running GAC through its three work units: Administration, Culinary, and Education/Employment. The Administration Unit gives members real world experiences of managing :finances, recordkeeping, and banking. In the Culinary Unit, members and staff plan for meals, shop for supplies, and prepare meals for members to enjoy. The Education/Employment Unit offers opportunities for members to obtain paid employment in the community and assists members who are attending school to navigate the educational system. This may include assistance with registration and seeking :financial aid and tutoring or mentoring.

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