Public radio from Western Michigan University 102.1 NPR News | 89.9 Classical WMUK
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

How a "Clubhouse" in Centerville helps people with mental illness become independent

Members and staff of Affinity House, left to right, top row: Donna, Holly, Bea, Sandra, Joe; Bottom row: Karen, Jessica
Deborah Haak-Frost
Watershed Voice
Members and staff of Affinity House, left to right, top row: Donna, Holly, Bea, Sandra, Joe; Bottom row: Karen, Jessica

This story was originally reported for the Southwest Michigan Journalism Collaborative's Mental Wellness Project

More than 14-million people across the country have severe mental illness. Yet for people in rural communities finding access to care and life services can be difficult. As part of the Southwest Michigan Journalism Collaborative’s Mental Wellness project reporter Zinta Aistars recently visited a facility known as a "Clubhouse" in Centerville.

It’s one of the many such centers in Michigan.Aistars wrote about the program for Watershed Voice. She told WMUK’s Brian O’Keefe that Affinity House provides a pathway to independence for its members.

“They help people with employment, initially employing them within the Clubhouse and then progressing on to other places in the community, and then it’s what they call transitional employment.”

The New York based Clubhouse International created the free membership-based resource program in 1995. Clubhouse says people in the “supportive employment program” are twice as likely to have long term employment as people in the public mental health system. Aistars says there is strong evidence Clubhouse works for its members.

“It has reduced incarceration…it has reduced some of those depression and anxiety disorders in the sense that they feel like they have somebody that will listen to them.”

Michigan is home to more "Clubhouses" than any other state, but Aistars says there is room for more. In fact there is no Clubhouse in Kalamazoo County.

This story is part of the Mental Wellness Project, a solutions-oriented journalism initiative covering regional mental health issues, by the Southwest Michigan Journalism Collaborative. SWMJC is a group of 13 regional organizations, including Southwest Michigan’s Second Wave, dedicated to strengthening local journalism. For more info visit

Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.