Social Services program “optimistic” it can find funding

Wichita, Kan (KSNW) – Breakthrough Club is a unique organization. On any given day, you will find dozens of people who live with mental illness, navigating their day with staff and other clients.

“I lost hundreds of pounds,” says Victoria, a client at the Breakthrough Club in Wichita. “They got me started on their exercise equipment. Just a couple of minutes at a time. Whatever I could do.”

Victoria says the progress was slow. But she got encouragement. And she lost weight. A lot.

Next, she started learning job skills and social skills.

“That’s what we do here,” says Barb Andres, Executive Director of Episcopal Social Services and Venture House and Breakthrough Club. “People come in really broken and we help them to understand that even thought you have metal illness, you still have a life. The second hardest thing is to get the community to understand that.”

Andres says the Governor’s veto of their state funding is a blow. But, she’s already over it.

“Oh…  I’ve had a sense of frustration on all the vetoes and yeah, you do work really hard and you’re excited when it looks like it’s (funding) going to go through and then you’re disappointed when things don’t go through,” says Andres. “So we’ve had sad tears around here and we’ve had happy tears, but there is always hope.”

Lawmakers put together a funding mechanism so that proceeds from lottery scratch ticket vending machines could pay up to $4 Million a year, for two years, for mental health services.

But the Governor did a line item veto on the final budget that stopped the funding.

That’s where Andres says her optimism takes hold, once again.

“The Governor has asked KDADS (Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services) to work with us and to take a close look at our program,” says Andres. “I think once they get a good look at our program and see what we do, they will find the funding. I really believe that.”

The optimism of what the program does accomplish is backed up by clients. We talked with about a dozen clients and they all share a common theme.

“This place has helped me get a job,” says Janet, one of the Breakthrough Club clients. ” I’m rolling silverware… at Carrabba’s. It’s not real physical, so I can do it. It’s really important. I probably wouldn’t be working at all if I would have never become a member here. I probably would not be working. I would be a couch potato or something.”

Victoria shares that thought.

“I can do an actual job now where I get paid,” says Victoria. “Slower-paced job, and I have a job coach for vocational rehabilitation. I’m not sleeping 12 to 16 hours a day like I used to.”

Andres says the work they do on supporting and coaching people who deal with mental illness is too important not to fund.

“I’m a non-profit executive and I’m a non-profit worker and you have to live on hope and you go year by year,” says Andres. “You can only get by on grant writing and reserve funding for so long. But, once the (KDADS) department gets a good look at us, they will want to find the money.”

Breakthrough offers social skills, rehabilitation skills, daily life skills and offers clients a chance to interact with both staff and other clients who have been through the program.

Some of the clients have been coming back to Breakthrough since 1994.

Breakthrough of Sedgwick County served 357 members last year.

The Governor said in his veto, that he wants funding to be found, just not from the state general fund.

“I have directed KDADS to work with the Community Mental Health Centers to establish a pilot with Clubhouse Model Program providers in the fiscal year 2018 in order to expand the scope of this program,” wrote Sam Brownback about his line item veto of funding for the programs.

“I think we remain optimistic,” says Andres. “What we do is too important not to find funding.”