Fountain House/Clubhouse International to receive $1.5 million humanitarian prize

Fountain House/Clubhouse International, an organization that has created a successful model to help those suffering from mental illness to reclaim their lives and realize their potential, has been selected to receive the 2014 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize of $1.5 million.

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation presents the annual award, the world’s largest humanitarian prize, to an organization that is doing extraordinary work to alleviate human suffering. An independent international jury, including Greenwich resident Hawley Hilton McAuliffe, makes the final selection.

About 450 million people worldwide suffer from mental and behavioral disorders, according to the World Health Organization. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that one in four people in the United States develop some kind of mental illness during their lives, most often during younger years. Half of cases begin by age 14 and three-quarters by 24. Mental disorders are a factor in 90% of the nearly one million global suicides each year.

“The problem is staggering in its global impact and scale with significant repercussions that adversely affect millions of families and society as a whole,” Steven M. Hilton, Chairman, President and CEO of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation said. “Mental illness is an issue that touches significant areas the Hilton Foundation has been working on for many years, such as chronic homelessness and substance use. The Fountain House/Clubhouse International program of social relationships and meaningful work has literally saved thousands of lives over the past 66 years.”

Today Fountain House/Clubhouse International directly affects the lives of more than 100,000 people who participate in 340 clubhouses in 32 countries. The concept of membership underpins every aspect of the community. Clubhouse members have shared ownership and shared responsibility for their community starting with the work-ordered day that provides structure for their lives by assigning them duties to work side-by-side with staff to run the clubhouse.

A second pillar of the Fountain House model is a transitional employment program in which local employers provide members with paid employment of 15 to 20 hours a week for six to nine months. A staff member trains with the clubhouse member and fills in if the member is unable to work. The program has proven benefits for members and employers. Employers have included American Express Publishing, Estee Lauder Companies, Fox Television, HBO, Young & Rubicam, Museum of Modern Art, Pfizer Inc., Cravath Swaine & Moore and many others.

“It is with enormous gratitude that Fountain House/Clubhouse International accepts the Hilton Humanitarian Prize,” Fountain House president Kenneth Dudek said. “With this award, the Hilton Foundation and its international jurors recognize mental illness as a global humanitarian crisis and acknowledge Fountain House/Clubhouse International’s evidenced-based approach to empowering people living with mental illness throughout the world. The prize belongs to the courageous and hardworking people connected to clubhouses everywhere.”

Fountain House has compelling data to support its effectiveness. It is listed in the U.S. Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices. Clubhouse members have longer job tenure and higher earnings and double the employment rate as compared to individuals living with mental illness who are not clubhouse members. It also has clear economic advantages. A two-week stay in a New York City hospital averages $28,000. For this amount, Fountain House can secure member housing for an entire year plus access to community services, health care, education, employment and social support.

The 2014 Hilton Prize will be presented at the annual Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize Dinner on Oct. 27 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City following a one-day Humanitarian Symposium.

The symposium gathers policymakers and leaders in the humanitarian field to address the most challenging issues facing the billions of people who make up the world’s most vulnerable populations.

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