Bringing a Brain Injury Clubhouse to Your Community

Create a Work Group

Assemble a working group of a variety of stakeholders who have time, passion and knowledge to develop a Brain Injury Clubhouse. Having at least three different types of stakeholders in the working group is important to hold each other accountable for garnering community support and keeping the process moving forward. Choose a facilitator and schedule regular meetings even if you feel stuck. This is going to be hard but rewarding work and it is important for the group to stay focused. Remember that you are starting a business and a program that other people will come to depend on. Too many early Clubhouse attempts have failed because people did not do the diligent work required to adhere to the program model. One of the first steps in your due diligence can be to…

Visit a Clubhouse Accredited by Clubhouse International or CARF

Clubhouses accredited by Clubhouse International serve people with mental illness and are a wealth of information about the unique culture of this partnership model. There are thirteen Brain Injury (BI) Clubhouses in the US that are accredited by the Commission for the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). Take 3 or more stakeholders and spend at least a whole day in a strong Clubhouse to get a feel for the model and to determine whether it will meet the needs of your community. The Clubhouse community is a generous group with a passion and commitment to helping all people living with BI gain access to a Clubhouse if they want it. As you can imagine, Clubhouses are very busy places. We welcome your questions and a visit, but due to other ongoing commitments, we may not have time to train each group individually within a specific Clubhouse. However, the IBICA community will work with groups who have completed their due diligence and demonstrate the necessary commitment and resources to open a Clubhouse program.

Next Steps

Once your working group has gained traction and determined the feasibility of supporting a BI Clubhouse in your area, consider participating in a New Clubhouse Development Training conducted by Clubhouse International and offered a few times each year around the world. If your group is interested, please contact Cindi Johnson: cindi@sidebysideclubhouse.org who will help you assess your readiness for attending such a workshop, help identify any preliminary steps you might want to take to make the best use of your working group’s time and resources, and then connect you with Clubhouse International leadership to pursue enrolling in a 2 1/2-day training. It is certainly not necessary to attend a New Clubhouse Development Training but is invaluable in helping you develop action plans that are much more likely to result in the successful opening of a Clubhouse-model program. You will be assigned a mentor for a year following the training who will likely be an IBICA Clubhouse Director.

Once the infrastructure of the new Clubhouse is established, it will be important to engage staff and members in immersion training of the Clubhouse model itself which focuses on members and staff working side-by-side as colleagues to run the Clubhouse- a much different approach than the familiar medical model of brain injury rehabilitation.

Do We Need a Clubhouse?

This is a very important question. While many people are captivated by their first Clubhouse visit, the program may or may not be the best fit for people in your community. Clubhouses are one of the many different support services that people who experience disability following brain injury may benefit from. It is essential that people in your community conduct a needs assessment to evaluate the specific needs of individuals with disability in your region and existing services. A few questions to consider:

  • Is there a preference for productive activity that contributes toward a common benefit? Or does your brain injury community prefer a focus on recreation and leisure?
  • Are potential members independent with self-management, such as using a wheelchair, taking medication, and controlling their temper? Or do they require individualized support throughout the day to participate in productive activity? Can they bring care partners with them if needed or would Clubhouse staff be expected to provide 1:1 support?

You may find that a Clubhouse is right for you, or you may find that a different approach is more suitable. Don’t get stuck on one program or approach. Be open-minded and listen to the needs of all people in your area.

Can our region support a Clubhouse?

A population base big enough to support a Clubhouse and a strong awareness of the ongoing need for community support of people living with disabilities following brain injury are crucial. Although there are no exact numbers, communities/regions with a total population of 150,000 seem to do best. In addition to overall population size, these communities usually have a variety of transportation, social service and other services that work well with a Clubhouse. Support for a Clubhouse can come from groups of people who have brain injuries, those who assist them, as well as government agencies, private donors or foundations, service providers, business leaders and others.

How large does a Clubhouse have to be?

It generally takes at least 7 members on a given day to reach a critical mass of community to get the work of the day done in the Clubhouse. As membership grows, the Clubhouse becomes even more engaging and dynamic. It often takes a few months to reach this critical programming mass. Some Clubhouses start up on a part-time basis as membership and resources grow. However, all Clubhouses are expected to grow into 5-day per week programs with social activities and employment supports available outside of regular program hours.

Sustaining a Clubhouse

A Clubhouse must also be sustainable in order to meet the needs of its members. It is critical for the Clubhouse to have its own separate space in an area that is accessible for people with physical and cognitive disabilities, accessibility to transportation, employment opportunities, retail stores like a grocery store and other community venues that are important in daily life.

It is important to determine whether the Clubhouse will be an independent organization or part of another agency. If you will be an independent agency, it is important to begin the steps required to establish a formal organization and board of directors. The business plan needs to consider how the program will be seeded financially (money for the start-up) and how it will sustain itself over time. It will be important to raise $150,000-300,000 for start-up funding for the first 2 years and to also develop a funding method to keep the Clubhouse going after that. Some of the funding stream work can occur after the program starts, but you have to have a good idea and a good plan for how these funds will be secured before you begin. Otherwise you may face closure after start-up funds have been used up.

A diverse funding stream to keep the Clubhouse is ideal and will vary with each area of the country.  For example, some areas have a strong system to fund long term support services through Medicaid Waivers, Vocational Rehabilitation, Injured Worker Rehabilitation, or even private donations. Most have a mixture of several funding streams.

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Click here to view information about New Clubhouse Development training offered by Clubhouse International.