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EXCEL HOUSE GIVES PATIENTS CHANCE TO EXCEL

The stately white home at the entrance to the Utah State Hospital once housed the superintendents of the facility. Now, the historic home opens its doors to members of the Clubhouse program and is known as the Excel House.

Modeled after the Clubhouse program at Fountain House, N.Y., the international program focuses on community rehabilitation for severely disabled psychiatric patients.The hospital's Clubhouse program is the only one in the world developed and running on hospital grounds, said Peggy Abegg, director of occupational therapy and the Excel House.

At the Excel House, hospital patients are referred to as members. With help from hospital staff, patients run the Clubhouse program and maintain the home. Each day members are asked to carry out various duties in maintaining the home while they learn valuable skills and work at developing problem-solving, organizing and follow-through skills.

"Members use skills by coming to a place that has meaningful work," Abegg said. "Our purpose is to increase patients' independence and responsibility. It's a place where they're expected, wanted and needed."

"They go through orientation, then decide what area they'll work in," Abegg said. "They live in the hospital units, so coming to the house is like coming to work for them."

From 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. each day, more than 20 members can be found working with indoor plants for other buildings on the campus. Other patients work in the home's garden, create and type Clubhouse newsletters and other clerical work on computers, create menus, take inventory and run every aspect of the Excel House.

"We've planted corn, squash, peppers, tomatoes, watermelon, lettuce, carrots and spices," one member said. Another member said he enjoyed the Clubhouse program because, "I'm learning about working with others and about leadership."

Although many members will remain patients at the hospital, the program is teaching them to have self-respect and self-discipline. The program "provides members with a link between clinical and community environments, maintaining a connection with an individual's home community within a hospital setting," Abegg said.

"It's expected they use their talents and develop responsibility," Abegg said. Like Fountain House, the Clubhouse program meets the human desire to be needed and feel important as a member of a meaningful group.

Community volunteers are being sought to work with members and donations of home, office, yard, garden or greenhouse items is encouraged. For information call Shawna at 344-4254.