Clarice Gallegos of Focus Clubhouse – Helping Adults with Mental Illness

Clarice Gallegos, Executive Director of Focus Clubhouse Lafayette, joined Discover Lafayette to discuss its mission to help people with mental illness have a reason to get up in the morning, be surrounded by like-minded people and to have meaningful work to do.

Focus Clubhouse is a free membership community for people 18 and older that provides a non-clinical, safe and enjoyable environment for people with diagnosed mental illness. Members have opportunities for work, education, housing, welfare and friendship and a chance to thrive with the support of their peers.

Many adults with serious mental illnesses experience repeated mental health crises resulting in frequent hospitalizations and encounters with law enforcement. Clarice struggled for years in her relationship with her son, Brian Boswell, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. He had no real business skills, was homeless, in and out of shelters, and twice threatened to kill himself.

It was in Miami that Brian found the Clubhouse role model and it was there that he “finally felt he had a sense of self and fit in”. He began to turn his life around with the help of the Key Clubhouse during the five years he was affiliated with the chapter. Now 48, Brian returned to Louisiana several years ago and encouraged Clarice to help him start a local Clubhouse chapter. the Lafayette chapter is the only such Clubhouse in Louisiana.

Brian Boswell pictured with his mother, Clarice Gallegos. Brian moved back to Louisiana in 2016 and when he couldn’t find a local clubhouse, he said, “I’m going to start one!” Incorporated in July 2018, Focus Clubhouse has approximately 20 active members, with 5-7 active participants daily. Clarice says, “Once you are a member, you are always a member.

The power of the Clubhouse International model lies in its effectiveness in keeping members out of crisis and on the road to recovery. The Clubhouse model began in 1948 in New York and is currently used successfully in over 300 locations in 30 countries around the world. It offers a proven method of psychiatric rehabilitation in a non-clinical setting.

“Coming to the Clubhouse you receive love and understanding, you gain purpose, people push you to believe in yourself, and you know anything is possible. We say Grace every day at the Clubhouse because we are grateful to the One who allowed us to be supported.

Focus Clubhouse is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays. Members get lunch for $2.00, but Clarice points out that if money is an issue, there is no charge. Tasks such as sweeping, grading and preparing lunch are handled by the members alongside Clarice. Clarice is the rock of the organization, being there every day and keeping the Clubhouse running smoothly.

Volunteers are encouraged as well as monetary contributions. Focus Clubhouse is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, so all donations are tax deductible. It costs around $50 per day to support a member. For as little as $25 you can provide lunch for a member for two weeks. To learn more about how you can help, please visit https://focusclubhouse.org/get-involved/

Focus Clubhouse is proud to have moved to its new, larger location at 1609 Johnston Street near UL-Lafayette to better serve its members.

We thank Clarice Gallegos for her heart and dedication to helping people who just need a break and a place to fit in. May God bless her and the members of the Focus Clubhouse.

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