Started 20 years ago, Club Pride put many people on the road to recovery after they were discharged from psychiatric hospitals. I'm one of them. I joined in April, 2003, after being twice hospitalized for clinical depression.
Club Pride has transformed me from someone who struggled to get out of bed every day to a person actively engaged in community affairs. Many other members achieved similar transitions, thanks to the therapy, coping skills and social support we gained at Club Pride.
But this vital program will end on June 30 unless responsible civic and political leaders act soon.
The crisis stems from a dispute between two agencies who fund Club Pride, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) and the Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services. Both share budget costs, but disagree on how the program should be run.
DOHMH recently issued new guidelines. They want membership size tripled from 60 to 180 and the elimination of a van transportation service. The Jewish Board refuses to go along, with good reason.
Club Pride has barely enough room for current members in the tight quarters it occupies on the 3rd floor of Pride of Judea's building.
Likewise, most members rely on van transport because they can't afford or are unable to use public transit. Ending van service would actually decrease membership.
Club Pride not only helps the mentally ill, but also serves as a training ground for college students majoring in social work and art therapy.
Six interns a year get hands-on experience working with a vulnerable segment of the population. Participating schools include CUNY, LIU, Adelphi, Touro and St. Johns. Roughy 120 interns trained at Club Pride over the past 20 years.
Many are now practicing professionals, but this training opportunity will vanish in five months unless someone steps in to save it.
Ironically, Club Pride's demise occurs shortly after Mayor Bill de Blasio launched a new program run by First Lady Chirlane McGray called NYC Well to expand mental health services to all New Yorkers.
Ending a successful mental health program that proved its value over the past
20 years doesn't mesh with this initiative.
While Club Pride's membership size has remained the same, individual members have come and gone over the years. Some moved away, others left to do volunteer work, others entered assisted living facilities and nursing homes.
Several passed away. As a family, we mourned their deaths. Now we face a collective death sentence on June 30 unless caring people prevent it.
Richard Reif is a resident of Kew Gardens Hills.