NAPA VALLEY REGISTER
Where do you go when you’re feeling lost? Alone? Anxious?
For hundreds of people, the new Innovations Community Center, which opened in May, is that place. It’s sort of a mental health community center, but it isn’t just for people with diagnoses. It is for anyone who needs a supportive environment to go to.
“There should be a place in the community where people can come who just might be worried about someone, or worried about themselves,” said Leslie Medine, founder and former executive director of On The Move.
"If you’re depressed … it is hard to come out of your house," Medine said. "It’s very easy to get isolated when you’re not feeling good or if you’re feeling shame."
The Innovations Community Center is the result of On the Move’s Innovations Project, which facilitated conversations about mental illness between mental health providers and consumers. Providers and consumers continue to work together to provide healing to individuals through storytelling, art expression, healthy living, spiritual healing and social connections.
The center, located at 3281 Solano Ave., celebrated 100 days in service on Thursday.
The community center offers all sorts of resources to its consumers, including support groups, meditation and classes in fitness, cooking, and art. One-on-one meetings are also available. Mostly, though, it is a place for people, and their families, who may be suffering from mental illness, drug abuse or other issues.
"Sometimes groups or therapy is very helpful to people, but sometimes they want other things like storytelling or arts as a way of healing," Medine said. Not everyone wants to talk about their diagnosis, she said. Some people just want to be around other people and have a place where they can just "feel good."
“A lot of people just need someone (to listen),” said Steve Coad, 65. Coad is an intern managing maintenance at the Innovations Community Center, but he also uses resources that the center provides. He helped bring Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings to the center and attends them regularly. Thanks to the positive and supportive environment of the center and the socialization that the group brings him, his self-worth has really improved, he said.
“I used to not like myself at all,” Coad said. He described himself as “shy” and “afraid of being judged,” but said that being involved with the center has helped him feel good about himself.
“Because of my past, I couldn’t get a job anywhere else and these people gave me a chance,” he said.
Ryan Jones, 38, who said he has Bipolar disorder, likes going to the center because he doesn’t feel judged there.
“We take people how they come,” said Zachariah Geyer, community aide with Napa County Health and Human Services Agency. Geyer, who spends part of his work week at the center, explained that it’s OK if someone doesn’t feel like being social the day they come in and, conversely, it’s OK if they’re there “talking a mile-a-minute.”
Patrons of the center can use the various services without having to provide insurance information or anything else, Medine said. They can also help in the garden, the kitchen or other places in the center, which helps make it feel like a community.
"It feels like home," Medine said.
Photos, inspirational quotes and art from both providers and consumers are on the center's walls. Entering the center, you see the welcoming faces and see one sign that reads: "Helping people with similar stories to mine makes me feel my heart is where it's needed."
That's why Program Coordinator Sara Tirado likes being involved with the center. When she first got involved with the Innovations Project it was because she had hit a point where she felt like she was alone in her struggle. One of her children had been diagnosed with Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Bipolar disorder.
"I was tired of people judging me," Tirado said.
Tirado explained that being a part of the program's development and seeing how providers and consumers can work together has been awesome. "A lot of these people, we are all they have," she said.
The center has already seen 337 participants and visitors, has 21 different kinds of classes, 17 partnerships with organizations, and hopes to keep expanding, Tirado said. They're looking to add to their programs, offer more classes in Spanish, and are open to new ideas and classes.
Many of the ideas still come from the consumers themselves.
"Staff always asks us for new ideas," said Ron Reiswig. "They're very open to creating new classes and asking for feedback."
It's a place where dignity is respected, said Leoda Brisbon. Brisbon, who has had issues with depression, said that being involved with the Innovations Project has helped her focus on building leadership skills and self-confidence.
To her, the opening of the center means "that we’re not forgotten, that we’re still here and that the public cares."
Want to know more?
The Innovations Community Center is open 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and is located at 3281 Solano Ave. in Napa
Free activities offered this month include:
- Smoking Cessation Class
- Cooking Lessons
- Tai Chi
- Additional fitness classes, support groups and one-one-meetings are also being offered
- Walk-ins are welcome