Judy Adams' real home is a few miles away from a bunch of rooms where
she gets her mail and goes to bed.
Adams, who was diagnosed with severe depression and suicidal
ideation about 12 years ago, is a regular at the Mental Health Assn.
of Orange County's Costa Mesa Clubhouse.
The clubhouse is simple but warm. The biggest room has a cozy
fireplace and couches informally arranged. There is an office and, on
the other side, a dining area where members eat lunch and socialize
three days a week.
It's nothing out of the ordinary when you look at it, but to Adams
and many like her, the clubhouse is a safe haven, a support and a
"It seems like I've been here forever," she said. "I haven't even
kept track of how long I've been coming here. It's my family. You
just don't keep track of how much time you spend with your family."
The clubhouse has been in existence for almost five years. Funded
by the county and the state, it provides an environment where people
with mental illnesses can interact with one another and enjoy each
other's company, coordinator Beth Woods said.
But the clubhouse is in danger of losing its lunch program because
of state budget cuts, she said.
"Our whole program revolves around lunch time," she said.
The place is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and
Friday. Lunch is at 12:30 p.m., and each day an average of 30 people
show up for lunch and stay for the remainder of the day, Woods said.
On Mondays, Woods takes them out for field trips. Otherwise, they
hang out at the clubhouse, watching movies, enjoying arts and crafts
or just talking, she said.
The lunch program is important because it's probably the only
decent meal many of her members have in a day, Woods said.
"Not necessarily because they can't afford it," she said, "but
because they have no one to share it with. It's like breaking bread
The lunch program costs $3,000 a year, money that hasn't come in
for the clubhouse this year.
"We're barely keeping it alive," Woods said. "I haven't shopped at
the grocery store in four months. I've been hitting the food drives
at the church. Our own members have been bringing in food, so they
can keep this going."
A busload of clubhouse members even went to Sacramento in May to
participate in a rally to protest state budget cuts that affect
On Wednesday, the lunch menu was hot dogs, nachos, beans and pink
lemonade. The decibel level in the room was higher than the number of
food items on the menu. There were laughs, big smiles around the
tables and even a few hugs here and there.
"It's the best thing that's ever happened to me," said Arlene, who
wouldn't give her last name.
She started coming to the clubhouse almost three years ago and is
glad she found it.
"If not for this place, a lot of people would just hibernate at
home," said Arlene, who was diagnosed with severe depression and had
a major breakdown three years ago. "It's important for us to just get
up and go somewhere."
The clubhouse provides them a safe place, where they're not
stigmatized or judged, Adams said.
"It's hard for us to accept ourselves," she said. "Other people
try, but it's hard to understand, unless you go through it yourself.
This setting makes it easier for us to accept our illness. We
understand that we have an illness, but the illness is not who we
Paula Fratiello heard about the clubhouse from a friend.
"If we don't have this, a lot of us would fall apart," she said.
"That's how important it is for us to come here and socialize. I look
forward to coming here three days a week. I wait for those days."
Chris Dovey, a speech major at Orange Coast College, practices his
speeches on his friends at the clubhouse. He was diagnosed with
paranoid schizophrenia three years ago.
"This is a little place that helps you out," he said. "I come here
all the time. People talk about going to church and how that makes
you feel good. This is the best church I've ever been to."