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Hillsborough commissioners to vote on 'safe haven' for those with mental illness

A Tampa non-profit hopes to establish a clubhouse that could help hundreds with mental illness
Posted at 6:59 AM, Oct 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-20 07:10:30-04

TAMPA, Fla. — It's been a busy pandemic for Asha Terminello and the staff members of Agency For Community Treatment Services, Inc. (ACTS) in Tampa.

While other businesses closed or scaled back their hours, Terminello, the CEO of ACTS, said her non-profit saw its role and importance grow as the demand for mental health services increased drastically.

Since 1978, ACTS has provided behavioral health services to young people and adults in the Tampa area who have substance abuse and mental health issues.

“We are seeing such a need in these times," said Terminello. "With the pandemic, our doors are just wide open.”

Now, Terminello and ACTS have their sights set on establishing a new resource to aid in their mission.

Years ago, ACTS purchased a building on East Yukon Street near the Sulphur Springs neighborhood in Tampa. Now, the non-profit intends to transform the space into a "Mental Health Psychosocial Rehabilitation Clubhouse Model."

The clubhouse would serve as a safe haven for up to 100 members each year who have a mental illness and/or co-occurring substance abuse disorders. It would provide them with help finding jobs and housing, better education and a safe place to socialize and recover.

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While such a program exists in nearby counties like Pinellas, Pasco and Polk, there is not an existing clubhouse in Hillsborough County.

"It was the one gap in the system of care, so they’ve long thought a clubhouse is needed in Hillsborough County," Terminello said.

According to online documents, BayCare Health, the Central Florida Behavioral Health Network, Publix and other private donors have provided some of the funding to establish the clubhouse.

The program is also seeking some public funding. In a Wednesday meeting, the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners will vote on an agreement that would spend up to $150,000 on the clubhouse.

Terminello and Cris Riviere, the COO of ACTS, say the clubhouse would have a noticeable impact on Hillsborough County.

“A lot of times, you’re talking about individuals who are suffering from mental health and/or substance abuse concerns not having a place—a safe haven—to attend to—to be able to have a place to say they’re a part of," said Riviere.

“It brings about change in individuals," added Terminello. "Members will have a better life by joining the clubhouse, even if it’s just to socialize with others.”

Commissioner Gwen Myers, who represents the area where the clubhouse would be established, calls the program a "win-win" and one that would help address a pressing need in the community.

Myers expects commissioners will approve the funding in the Wednesday morning vote.

If all goes as planned, Terminello says the clubhouse should be up and running by summer 2022.