The Kent Center Hillsgrove House

The Hillsgrove House Program is an ICCD (International Center for Clubhouse Development) certified psychosocial rehabilitation program based on the “Fountain House” model.

The program serves adults age 18+ who:

  • have a severe & persistent mental illness
  • meet the Community Support Program eligibility criteria
  • are willing to identify rehabilitation goals and commit to working toward goal attainment in a clubhouse environment

In the mid-1940s, ten patients in a state mental hospital formed a self-help group. When they were released, they continued to meet in nearby New York City, calling their group “We Are Not Alone,” or “WANA.” Their goal, based on the concept of self-help through mutual help, was to assist each other and ex-patients like themselves find jobs, places to live, and friendship – paths back to independence and productivity.

Hillsgrove House continues as a Clubhouse — warm and inviting, open 5 days a week & evenings, weekends & holidays, and operated by its members in partnership with a highly professional, caring staff. Hillsgrove House today is also much more. It is an innovative community-based group of programs, dedicated to the recovery of men and women with mental illness. Developed by members and staff working together, and continually evolving to meet members’ changing needs, these programs include opportunities for joining in the running of the Clubhouse, working at participating businesses throughout the area, and taking advantage of Hillsgrove House’s education, advocacy, reach out, and social and recreation activities.

Hillsgrove House is an influential voice in continuing efforts – local, statewide and national – both to promote the rights of men and women with mental illness and to battle the barriers and stigma they face.

The broad purpose of Hillsgrove House is included in a document developed jointly by members and staff.

“The Hillsgrove House vision is that people with mental illness everywhere achieve their potential and are respected as co-workers, neighbors and friends.”

Hillsgrove House today serves 400 active members annually. It helps men and women achieve more independent, productive, and rewarding lives.

“Hillsgrove House is a place where people with mental illness come to be successful – to get jobs, education, and to socialize. It’s a place for people with common ground to come together to help one another. We are friends. We are peers. Members and staff have been a community, a partnership, and a family for years.”

Jan Lorensen, Director
Hillsgrove House

Hillsgrove House serves men and women in the Kent County area of Rhode Island who suffer from serious, long-term mental illness, such as schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder. Members range in age from 18 to more than 80 years old, and represent a broad spectrum of socio-economic, racial, religious, professional and educational backgrounds.

Hillsgrove House maintains an annual membership of approximately 400 individuals. Of these, around 120 members are receiving ongoing services and, on any given day, approximately 60 members come to Hillsgrove House and participate in activities. Membership is free and open-ended.

Clubhouse members and staff share tasks and responsibility for the successful daily functioning of all programs, including:

  • voluntary work-ordered day
  • transitional, supported and independent employment programs
  • member education support system
  • evening, weekend and holiday social, recreational and programs
  • integrated project serving members who suffer from mental illness
  • research
  • training and clubhouse expansion
  • International Center for Clubhouse Development
  • Advocacy Center

The Kent Center Work-Ordered Day

  • Business Hours
    Monday thru Friday 9:15 am – 3:15 pm
    During business hours, Hillsgrove House is structured into work units. Each unit is responsible for a particular aspect of the program operation. Members and staff work together as colleagues to operate the clubhouse in the following work units:

    • Business – Learning computer word processing, keeping clubhouse statistics, receptionist skills, office skills, and publishing a BI-monthly creative journal.
    • Food Service – Operating a restaurant and snack bar service, food prep, register work, waiter/waitressing, and nutrition.
    • Orientation – Conducting clubhouse tours, intakes, orientation, and member outreach.
  • Meeting Hours
    Monday 1:00 pm – Job Club Meeting
    Wednesday 1:45 pm – Policy Meeting
    Thursday 2:00 pm – Administration Meeting
  • Social Activities
    Saturday 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
    Sunday 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
    Last Thursday of each month 5:00 pm – 7:00 pmThe club is open on major holidays.
  • Lunches
    Two lunches are offered for the convenience of our members. The first lunch is at 12:45 pm. Tickets for lunch are available beginning at 10:00 outside of the Learning Unit. There is no fee for lunch, but a lunch form is required to be filled out once a member joins Hillsgrove House.

The Kent Center Education Program

Completing an education is commonly a prerequisite to a productive life. However, the onset of mental illness, for many individuals, strikes when they are in high school, college or graduate school. Some of these students cannot continue their classes. Some become afraid to stay in school, linking, in their minds, the stress of study and the start of their illness. Later, when they recover and try to return to school, the stigma and lack of self-confidence that accompanies mental illness make class work and studying feel impossible. Hillsgrove House’s Education Unit is committed to helping members resume their studies and strengthen their qualifications for work.

The Education Unit provides a broad range of services. It counsels members on such options as GED schools, vocational and business schools, colleges, community colleges and universities. It helps members with applications and registration, and with securing financial aid for books, supplies and transportation.

The Clubhouse building itself provides places to study, the use of computers, copiers, phones and other equipment, and the availability of staff and volunteers to help with homework. The unit monitors each student’s progress, and, thanks to the staff’s on-going relationships with school and college personnel, can often head off a problem affecting a student, or help solve it. When a student succeeds, Hillsgrove House friends are there to help celebrate the achievement.

The Kent Center Employment Program

To speed their recovery from mental Illness, people need purpose in their lives. One such purpose is working. Almost all Hillsgrove House members work, either in the Clubhouse or in paid placements in companies throughout the city. Through work, they gain self-esteem, their talents are recognized, they have the chance to develop new relationships, and they earn their own money to supplement their limited government benefits.

  • At the Clubhouse
    Hillsgrove House “works” because its members actively make it function. Side by side with staff, members fashion and operate the Clubhouse’s many programs. For example, they greet visitors and take them on tours; run the switchboard and handle a wide spectrum of clerical responsibilities; plan, prepare and serve meals, and keep the building clean and in order. Members coordinate evening and weekend activities, and take part in advocacy and reach out programs. As they work in the Clubhouse, many members regain self-confidence, and move on to hold paying jobs.
  • Transitional Employment
    Through the Transitional Employment (TE) program, managed by members and staff together, members are placed in paid entry-level positions provided by participating companies. These placements are transitional in two senses: they let members ease into the world of work at their own pace, and, typically, each placement lasts between six and nine months. The member may then move to another TE placement, or on to supported or independent employment, depending on their desires.Companies, too, benefit from TE. They find enthusiastic, trained workers at prevailing wages. If a member needs to be absent, another member or a staff worker fills in. And when a member moves to another assignment, Hillsgrove House trains the replacement.
  • Independent Employment
    Members with prior work experience, or those who through TE complete a number of placements, may seek to hold jobs on their own. Hillsgrove House’s Independent Employment (IE) unit helps them prepare resumes, coaches them in job-interview techniques, and arranges interview sessions. While members are working, they can continue to call on Hillsgrove House for support by phone and through a unit available to working members weekday evenings and Sunday afternoons.
  • Supported Employment
    Supported Employment (SE) combines aspects of both Transitional Employment and Independent Employment, and is designed for members interested in additional work options. While providing some initial on-the-job training and assistance where it may be needed, SE is designed to offer ongoing Hillsgrove House support to members who have permanent jobs of their own.

The Kent Center Active Reachout Program

Members sometimes drop out or drift away from Hillsgrove House despite the efforts of their units. When this happens the Clubhouse, through the new Active Reachout Program, takes the initiative to re-establish contact. Its goals: to re-engage these members in the Clubhouse programs, to help them secure any necessary medical, psychiatric or community services, and to provide them with any needed crisis prevention or intervention.

Members drop out of services, including the Clubhouse, for a variety of reasons. Some members with full-time jobs or day-long school schedules feel they don’t have the time it takes to travel in and keep taking part. For some, the connection with Hillsgrove House has weakened, perhaps because a close friend has left or they’ve lost interest in the unit they worked with. Some members, now independent and working and living on their own, feel they have outgrown their need for the Clubhouse. Some don’t feel like making the effort. Other individuals may be in difficulty, needing psychiatric or medical attention, unable to get access to the services they need or not knowing where to go for them. For still others, the Clubhouse has yet to discover how best to assist them.

Through the Active Reachout unit, re-connecting with these individuals is a team effort. Members and staff, working together, make visits to absent friends’ homes, or make phone calls and write letters. Some members take part in these efforts on a regular basis as part of their Clubhouse work day; others, attached to other units or coming to Hillsgrove House for other programs, join the team when their friendship offers a logical link to a particular individual being contacted.

The initial contact can be as simple as a “Hello, we haven’t seen you for a long time; how are things going?” – designed to extend a friendly hand or to see if the individual has special issues or concerns. If the person needs specialized assistance, the unit can direct the individual to services in his or her neighborhood; if there aren’t any, the unit brings him or her in touch with other services that are appropriate.

The Kent Center International Clubhouse Standards

Hillsgrove House is an International Center for Clubhouse Development certified clubhouse. CLICK HERE to read the ICCD International Standards.