‘We are more than our challenges’

 

Greenfield Recorder 05/12/2015, Page C01

Green River House readies mental health wellness fair

By KATHLEEN McKIERNAN Recorder Staff

GREENFIELD — For 10 years, Suzanne Grimard had worked for Verizon as a directory assistance operator until the company closed its Greenfield office in 2008.

The Greenfield resident began working several temp jobs, while searching for a full-time position.

The bad economy coupled with her underemployment and severe depression caused her to have a nervous breakdown.

Struggling to find a job, a psychiatrist at Baystate Franklin Medical Center recommended Grimard visit the Green River House.

The Green River House, located at 37 Franklin St., is a community-based program that offers adults who are recovering from mental illness a safe place to establish social ties, explore education options and gain job skills.

Known by its members as “the clubhouse,” it is a program of Clinical and Support Options.

It offers its members opportunities to gain job skills as transitional, supported or as independent employees by connecting with area businesses and social agencies where they can perform entry-level jobs for a six- to nine-month cycle.

The club house is also divided into work stations with members assigned to jobs within the program, from data processing to writing and editing a newsletter, The Current, to food services.

Warren Lett of Greenfield began going to the clubhouse in 1993 after he suffered two catatonic episodes and became bulimic. Lett now works several janitorial jobs for area businesses.

“I found a home here,” said Lett. “This is a wonderful community. I found people encouraged me and believed in me to go back to work. It’s a great resource for Greenfield.”

To help raise awareness about mental health issues and resources in Franklin County, Clinical & Support Options is sponsoring the 13th annual Mental Health and Wellness Fair on May 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.at The Energy Park in Greenfield.

It is held in May as part of Mental Health Awareness Month.

“We wanted to educate people about people who carry a diagnosis of mental illness and that there’s hope in recovery and people can live the life they want to live,” said John Semon, program director of the Green River House.

This year’s fair will feature 15 vendors, including the RECOVER Project, the Western Massachusetts Employment Collaborative, Community Health Center, Just Roots, the Recovery Learning Community, and the New England Learning Center for Women in Transition (NELCWIT).

“Our mental health wellness colleagues in the community come to discuss what services we have and how people can connect with those services,” said Semon.

The fair’s theme this year is “We are more than our challenges.”

“It’s helping people become the best version of themselves,” said Allison Garris, director of business development at Clinical & Support Options. “What’s important is what that person wants. We want to provide the tools and resources they need. The trend we’re seeing is anything is possible. Your mental health doesn’t define you.”

With the clubhouse’s support, Suzanne Grimard now works several cleaning jobs for area nonprofits, including NELCWIT.

She serves as an intern for Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, summarizing and transcribing lengthy legal files for the Greenfield legislator. Grimard, who has a bachelor’s degree in journalism, plans to become more involved in political activism and social justice issues.