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Getting By With A Little Help From Their Friends

February 20, 2024

Sometimes you just need a friend.

Rushford’s Friendship Club, which has operated for decades as part of the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services’ Social Rehab/Social Clubs/Centers/Learning & Wellness Centers program, provides a safe, warm and friendly place for people with “any mental health condition that seriously impairs their ability to lead meaningful lives.”

There are 24 such clubs in Connecticut.

Lynnette Sparkman-McLaurin is Rushford’s program operations manager for housing, homeless outreach and social rehabilitation. She says the Friendship Club in Meriden is open Monday through Friday and offers a wide array of programming ranging from guest speakers to educational programming to field trips in the community to simply hanging out and working on a jigsaw puzzle.

“It’s structured but also relaxed,” she says.

Participants are referred by Rushford clinicians or by community partner organizations.

“It’s for anyone who is struggling with socialization,” she explains. The center is staffed with social rehabilitation counselors who plan the activities and work with participants. Often these counselors are an important liaison with an individual’s other health care providers.

“The counselors are connected to each person’s case manager, clinician and prescriber,” she says. “There is a weekly integrated team meeting that includes everyone. And the counselors at the Friendship Club typically see each person more often than anyone else. They spend more time with them. Often they can identify when someone may be struggling and the club members may provide pertinent information that the counselor can inform the respective care team members about.”

There is no limit on how long a person can come to Friendship Club, and if they do decide to leave they can always come back, Sparkman-McLaurin says.

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