Mental health consumers want clubhouse downtown
Written by JORDAN CRAVENS Sentinel Staff Writer
Wednesday, 11 December 2013 09:19
Some consumers and board members of the Connection Center, a clubhouse for adults with severe or on-going mental illness, pleaded with the Wood County Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services Board on Monday to keep the center in downtown BG. They say the clubhouse is centrally located, allows for socialization of consumers and gives those with mental illness a public presence.
|Edward Biegel, from left, Joe Benschoter and his wife, Linda, at the Connections Center in Bowling Green. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
The Connection Center is operated by Behavioral Connections, but the ADAMHS Board pays Behavioral Connections to do so.
The consumers and board members who addressed the board on Monday said they were concerned about the possibility of having the center relocated to the former Varsity Lanes bowling alley on South Main Street. They want to keep their clubhouse, which was established in 1999, at 194 S. Main St.
Dr. Richard Goldberg, chief executive officer of Behavioral Connections assured Tuesday that no final decision has been made on whether to relocate the center.
"We are listening to what they are saying and absolutely no decision has been made," Goldberg said.
"We are taking their concerns seriously and we might not make a change at all," he said.
Carol Beckley was among those who pleaded with the ADAMHS Board to keep the center where it is.
Beckley once struggled with isolation. Even something as seemingly simple as leaving her apartment to pay her electric bill seemed like an insurmountable task.
But now, she does it herself. That's something she credits to the Connection Center and its location in the heart of downtown. The center was key, she said, in helping her re-integrate back in society and to learn how to do things, like paying her electric bill, herself.
Its downtown location is something she, as well as other consumers and Connection Center board members, believe is what makes the clubhouse so successful in helping those with mental illness to become more independent, rejoin society and stay out of the hospital.
Those in attendance at Monday's meeting emphasized the benefits of having the center located downtown where consumers can walk to the library, bank, shop at stores or pay their bills.
"First consumers learn how to participate in things at the center and then in the community," Beckley said.
Years ago, prior to the center being opened, the mentally ill may have been asked to leave a downtown establishment simply because they didn't know how to dress or act, Beckley said.
But now, Beckley said, with the help of the center and city and the socialization aspect of being downtown, many consumers thrive on the opportunity to grab a cup of coffee at Grounds for Thought, walk down the aisles of Ben Franklin, or cash their check at KeyBank.
The downtown location also serves as a way for citizens to see those with mental illness interacting in the community.
"We have a visibility here we are not going to have on the south side," Beckley said.
Relocating the center would also put up hurdles to consumers who walk to the center and would triple the number of people who would require transportation to and from, Beckley said.
Goldberg said those who spoke at Monday's meeting do not represent the sentiment of all consumers and board members of the center.
"You heard from four people at that meeting, but there are probably 40 people who don't care (if it relocates) or who want a new facility," Goldberg said.
Goldberg said if the decision is made to re-locate the center, one idea is to also re-locate Behavioral Connections from North Prospect Drive to the former Varsity Lanes, too.
The advantage to having everything in a central location, Goldberg said, is that many of the consumers of the Connection Center also receive treatment from Behavioral Connections.
However, he reiterated, no decision has been made and one likely won't be made until January.
"That is one of several plans on the table," he said.
ADAMHS Board Chair Randy Rothenbuhler responded to those who spoke at Monday's meeting.
"We hear what you are saying. I think what we need to do now is take a look at it and I think the first step is to talk with Behavioral Connections," Rothenbuhler said.