Talking about mental illness can be difficult. However, as a former radio interview talk show host, I can say assuredly that when people talk openly about themselves or a loved one who has a mental illness a lot happens. Their strength and words are powerful. The relief they feel is palpable. They realize that behind their fear is freedom.
Perhaps during these many months of living life as redefined by COVID-19, you have experienced your own turmoil and anxiety. Hopefully, this is a temporary state for you. For many, however, living with a mental illness is their life. Their life has been defined for them, perhaps but it does not mean that it defines who they are. They are more than their illness.
That is why I was so excited to tour the new Gateway facility on Rutherford Street. It is an impressive 20,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility and the bright, open and welcoming lobby is indicative of the amazing things going on inside. Randy Redlinger, Executive Director of Gateway, beamed with pride as he showed me around the facility and explained the many services available to their members.
Gateway is a Clubhouse Model of interactive mental health rehabilitation. There are no physicians or nurses on site. Members are referred to Gateway by physicians or psychiatrists because of a severe and persistent mental illness: Schizophrenia, Schizo-Affective Disorder, Bipolar Depression or Major Depressive Disorder. Before COVID,” Redlinger explains, “our membership was up to 130. It is 60 at present. Post-COVID, we hope to reach our full capacity of 200 members who are here on a daily basis.”
Members work alongside dedicated Gateway employees preparing meals in the kitchen, managing the snack bar, and working in the on-site bank where members are both the bankers and the customers and learn how to make deposits, withdrawals and better understand finances. There is a high tech audio-visual studio where members create and deliver a daily on-campus broadcast. And an education unit where members can work on continuing their education.
A longtime member of Gateway, Mike Wnuk, enthusiastically shared his story, “Gateway is a blessing to my life. When I came to Gateway in 1993 after developing Bipolar Depression, which forced me to drop out of college, it was the first time that I had ever felt like I fit in and where I began to understand that what was wrong with me was not my fault. Thirty-seven years later I can say that I have never
Martha Armstrong, Director of Development says, “what I like most about working at Gateway is the fact that we give people with mental illness a chance to live their lives with dignity and hope. The last thing you want to do is isolate people who have a mental illness.”
During COVID, Gateway has helped connect with members in many ways including porch visits, teleconferences, phone calls, social media, lunch deliveries and even outdoor movie nights (abiding by all CDC restrictions). She invites anyone who is interested in touring Gateway, learning more about the services offered or making a contribution to contact her email@example.com. She emphasizes, “mental health is more important than ever.”
Gateway significantly reduces the need for psychiatric hospitalization with less than 1% recidivism by decreasing the number of hospital stays, emergency room visits and incarcerations which helps save Greenville County approximately two million dollars annually. The Greenville Gateway is also one of twelve training sites in the world that helps train other cities to establish a Clubhouse Model. The accreditation process includes meeting 37 standards. Most recently, they were involved in the accreditation process for a facility
in Paris, France.
Nancy Suitt Bennett, who serves on the Gateway Board of Directors, says, “I am excited for the members to have a new building that provides an atmosphere, design-wise, similar to what their peers experience, hopefully making them feel part of something that is current with a cool vibe.”
She serves on the board because she has a passion for mental illness. In fact, most people on the board have a friend or loved one who suffers from a mental illness and are keenly aware of how truly difficult it is for them to feel a sense of normalcy or belonging.
She explains, “Gateway provides the opportunity to give members a schedule which gives them a purpose and a reason to get up every day. Fortunately, we are now in a new age where people are more accepting of neurological differences. My hope is people with mental illness will come out of the shadows and into the light and be able to live a full life believing they are more than their illness. The Upstate is lucky to have Gateway to help them make thi
Read or Share this story: https://www.greenvilleonline.com/story/life/2020/10/27/new-gateway-facility-rutherford-st-connects-mental-health/3749926001/