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Engaging recovery

October 1, 2007
by DOUGLAS METCALFE
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SafeHaven aims to make recovery a more enjoyable experience

SafeHaven is a consumer-operated social and vocational center for adults recovering from mental illness in Darke, Miami, and Shelby counties in Ohio. SafeHaven was recognized with a 2006 Lilly Reintegration Award for Social Support, and we believe our story reflects how people can be given the tools to not only recover from mental illness, but to have fun along the way despite all the hardships they encounter.

SafeHaven began its mission in the bottom of a small white house in Troy, Ohio, in April 1996 with fewer than five members being served per day. Growing substantially over the next three years, SafeHaven survived a fire in 1999. With no place to go, SafeHaven was able to stay in a local hall for approximately eight months, followed by renting a basement before settling into the spacious building in Piqua that it has called home for the past seven years. SafeHaven also has a satellite site serving Darke County in Greenville. By the close of 2006, SafeHaven was serving approximately 50 people per day. SafeHaven receives state and local funding under contract through the local mental health board and from area United Way organizations.

In our mission to provide educational, social, and vocational service opportunities to any adult in need of mental health support, our 18-member staff offers a large variety of services. Best-practice support groups include programs using the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) and Building Recovery of Individual Dreams and Goals through Education and Support (BRIDGES), along with peer support. We offer arts and crafts, music, exercise, and creative writing activities, as well as life skills and job-readiness training. Members line up for bingo games and weekend trips to fairs, festivals, parties, shopping outings, movies, picnics, museums, and more. Through partnerships with local colleges, such as Edison Community College, we offer members quarterly classes that focus on self-esteem, relationships, balancing budgets, etc.

Douglas metcalfe outside safehaven's site in piqua, ohio
Douglas Metcalfe outside SafeHaven's site in Piqua, Ohio. Photography: Tricia Alloway

Mixing fun with every educational activity is the biggest key to making every group a successful experience instead of a boring lecture. Members learn visually, audibly, and hands-on. The presentation of materials is the real fuel to take the educational vehicle where SafeHaven understands it needs to go.

Multiple factors have contributed to both SafeHaven's success and to our recognition with the Reintegration Award. We understand that it's not enough to be there for your members; you have to make sure members are empowered to be there for themselves. To build recovery, we place importance on maximizing goals that staff and members can achieve together. After all, most of our staff members are recovering consumers themselves, who face the same stones while walking down the road of recovery. Despite SafeHaven's free membership, free lunches, free transportation, and multitude of trips and supportive and educational classes, our members maintain that acceptance into the SafeHaven family is number one on their list of reasons to rise above their challenges.

I am honored that SafeHaven's staff and membership have welcomed and trusted my leadership throughout our first few years together. I am honored that I have been able to be a part of pushing SafeHaven over the top in my first year toward achieving this prestigious award. I believe we have been able to focus on quality over hype, on responsible efficiency, and on a reality that gives way to laughter more often than worry. Without such a strong core of supporters, members, and staff that believed in this mission long before I moved to the area, we never could have accomplished this great recognition.

Acknowledgment

Many thanks go to Dr. Mary Ramey, who recommended SafeHaven for the award and spent quite a bit of her time on the application process.

Douglas Metcalfe is Executive Director of SafeHaven, Inc., with sites in Piqua and Greenville, Ohio.

For more information, e-mail him at safehavendouglas@woh.rr.com.

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