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Money well spent…

An anniversary celebration today at the Carriage House, the Fort Wayne center offering a Clubhouse rehabilitation model for people recovering from mental illness, is intended as a thank you to those who created and continue to support it.

But the mental health professionals and advocates responsible would have even more reason to celebrate if state officials would reverse the policy that has cut Carriage House’s funding by half and threatens its continued operation.

Since July 2010, the state has refused to allow federal Medicaid reimbursement for certified Clubhouse model rehabilitation programs, in spite of the fact that all other states recognize the research-backed programs as effective and successful in helping people become productive, healthy citizens.

A meeting with representatives of Gov. Mike Pence’s administration last month, however, offered hope for Carriage House and similar programs under way in Elkhart, South Bend and Indianapolis.

“I’m more hopeful now than I ever have been,” said Alexander Wilson, executive director since 2004. “While there is no timeline and no practicalities, I have heard from people who said they heard (this funding change) is being talked about.”

The change couldn’t come too soon. Wilson said that he’s drafted a catastrophe plan four times in the last three years, preparing to fire staff, shut down services and limit membership.

“We’ve come frighteningly close a number of times,” he said. “But the Fort Wayne community has come through – our ‘Dancing with the Stars’ (fundraising event) just keeps growing. Park Center has been nothing short of heroic in terms of advocacy and their help, but we all recognize that this is not sustainable.”

With the Medicaid reimbursement approval, the Carriage House could focus on what it has done for 15 years. It has served more than 1,400 members with mental illness and helped about 400 different people a year stay out of the hospital or off the streets. It has helped people in recovery to live independently, finish college degrees and find jobs.