Group is by and for those with mental health issues |

Group is by and for those with mental health issues

Kay Vasilakis
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

New Hopeful Heart was started to reduce the amount of isolation that comes with the diagnosis of mental illness or issues, and to help consumers become empowered and return to normal, functional, daily living. It achieves this through peer support, community interaction, education and physical activity.

New Hopeful Heart refers to its participants as consumers, a common name used in reference to those who take part in drop-in centers. A consumer refers to anyone who has been or currently is a client of mental health services, or a caregiver of a client of mental health services.

Its philosophy is that the organization be consumer-driven. At New Hopeful Heart, not only is the executive director a consumer, but members of the board are consumers as well. The idea of a drop-in center is built around the concept of self-help and advocacy: a place where consumers can go to gain empowerment, education and skills with the help of other consumers.

At drop-in centers, participants are people, not patients, and the atmosphere is completely void of any kind of clinical nature. Consumers determine the programs offered and run the center in order to keep it an organization literally “by the consumer, for the consumer,” allowing it to develop into a place that fills a unique role in consumers’ lives.

The New Hopeful Heart facility is a large log cabin located at 1217 Howard Ave., behind the Garfield County Fairgrounds in Rifle. The facility provides a lounge/living room with a pool table where consumers can entertain themselves with a game, read books from the library, visit with other consumers or watch television.

The facility also contains four smaller rooms, of which two are used for staff; a conference room; and plans are to turn the fourth room into a computer lab for consumers. One of the two bathrooms contained within the facility offers a washer and dryer which consumers can use to do laundry.

New Hopeful Heart offers lunch, and art classes on Wednesdays, yoga, and a peer support group on Thursdays.

Transportation can be arranged with the facility’s van within its Garfield County service area.

Executive Director Lu Anne Herman holds a master’s degree in public administration with an emphasis in nonprofit management. Her biggest challenge is funding and getting the word out to the public. She considers her biggest achievement to be keeping New Hopeful Heart’s doors open to serve consumers despite a challenging past seven years.

Consumers find the organization through word of mouth, referrals from local mental health agencies, other nonprofit entities and even the local community college.

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