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Bay Area organization offers mental health services during pandemic

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — The life changes that come with navigating a pandemic can be especially tough for people living with mental illness.

One Bay Area organization has rallied to support that community in new ways.

Since 2008, Putnam Clubhouse in Concord has served folks living with severe mental illness in the community. With nearly 1,000 members, the organization provides a wide range of free programs, for an average of fifty people in a typical day.

“I joined the clubhouse thinking, I’m not gonna enjoy this, I’m not gonna like it, but I’m gonna go anyway because it’ll help me keep a schedule,” Puala Boyd said.

Boyd ended up liking it so much that she now sits on the board of directors, and has been heavily involved in keeping the clubhouse operational during COVID-19, finding creative ways to support fellow members.

“That’s what makes a difference, so that people are feeling secure in what they’re doing, they know we’re supporting them, and we’re reaching out to them,” Boyd said.

Even before shelter in place orders were announced, the clubhouse saw the writing on the wall and started planning ways to adapt.

“We took our program as it stands day to day, and we tried to closely parallel what we did here physically, and how we could translate it into virtual,” Tamara Hunter said.

The list of services is long, from employment support and wellness programs, to movie nights and dance parties on Zoom. But one of the biggest projects has been figuring out how to continue to provide free meals to members.

Thanks to volunteers and donations, Putnam was able to establish a food pantry, and has safely delivered almost 700 care packages to members during quarantine.

“Our members don’t have the means to try to hop on a bus, and go to three to four stores, and that would cause them terrible anxiety to boot,” Hunter said.

The virtual offerings have been such a success that 17 new members have joined the clubhouse since shelter in place began, and Putnam plans to continue it’s virtual program even when its doors are finally open again.

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