Some of us spend so much time thinking about stormwater runoff and traffic jams and other indications of overdevelopment that we forget quality of life goes beyond whether an apartment has granite countertops or who has to shovel the sidewalks. So I consider it a gift that I was invited to a tour of Club Nova followed by a meeting with Cardinal Innovations Healthcare, a managed care organization to which Club Nova has applied for a sizeable grant.
For the past 30 years, Club Nova has opened the doors of its small house on West Main Street in Carrboro (after Chapel Hill turned down Club Nova’s request to open a day center) as a safe place for those recovering from mental illness to find friends, acceptance and belonging. People learn to become part of society again through Club Nova’s activities and programs.
Clubhouse members can help keep the place running by working in the kitchen (Club Nova serves 13 low-cost meals per week), staffing the reception desk or the thrift shop, or signing up for a myriad of other tasks that need to be done. They can enjoy the social and recreation programs the club arranges on evenings and weekends.
Club Nova’s professional staff help people with next steps, such as enrolling in educational courses or returning to work, and help sort out the complexities of the health care system and disability payments.
Isolation is a factor in many mental illnesses, and Club Nova has a shuttle bus that can pick up club members who live beyond public transportation. With the high cost of housing in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, many club members live out in the county. Club Nova also has several studio apartments in a building behind the clubhouse that serve as transitional housing.
For the cost of a week’s hospitalization, Club Nova can serve a person for a year.
So last week, more than a dozen Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Orange County leaders, including the county sheriff, Chapel Hill’s police chief, professors at the medical and social work schools and nonprofit directors, joined Club Nova in explaining to Cardinal why investing in the clubhouse benefits all of us. With the state’s refusal to participate in the Affordable Care Act, thus denying Medicaid to half a million North Carolinians, Club Nova increasingly has to rely on private donations and grants.
Several club members who had built meaningful lives with the help of Club Nova came to the meeting at Carrboro’s Town Hall to share how they had benefited, and one of the most compelling arguments for Cardinal investing in Club Nova came from one of them.
“We’re the functioning ones,” he said. “The people who stayed at the clubhouse, their world is still small. It’s all at Club Nova. It would be a shame to take that away from them.”
I hope the Cardinal execs listened and understood the impact their investment could have on the quality of life for so many people.
— Nancy Oates