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Avivo’s Community Support Program Celebrates 30 Years

Avivo’s Community Support Program is celebrating 30 years of serving individuals with severe and persistent mental illness, providing program members with community-based supports to achieve recovery.

“I was one of the charter members of Avivo’s Community Support Program (CSP) in Minneapolis. I joined just after it started,” says Harry. “Love heals. I saw love at all of the CSPs.”

“Love heals. I saw love at all of the CSPs.”

Mental health treatment has changed dramatically over the past 50+ years, since Harry first entered a treatment facility in the 1960s. “I remember back in 1963. I was at a facility and given 300mg of [the antipsychotic chlorpromazine] four times per day,” says Harry. He describes it as essentially shutting down his mind, keeping him asleep nearly 20 hours a day.

After leaving that facility, Harry witnessed an evolution in mental health treatment. He joined a precursor to Avivo’s CSP, one of the first mental health drop-in centers, which provided activities and community for people living with mental illness.

“Don’t shut down people’s minds [using drugs], get good thoughts in their minds,” Harry says. “Don’t make them do something. Let them do something.”

This experience led Harry to new conclusions about how to treat mental illness. “Don’t shut down people’s minds [using drugs], get good thoughts in their minds,” Harry says. “Don’t make them do something. Let them do something.”

In 1987 the Adult Mental Health Act was passed in Minnesota. Shortly after, Avivo was awarded funds through Hennepin County to run a drop-in community support program. Avivo’s CSP has been supported by Hennepin County ever since.

“I started on day one, in 1989,” recalls Cyndy Darby, manager of Avivo’s CSP in Bloomington. “We started building the program up. It was open twice a week, and then three times a week. Now we’re open five days per week.”

Cyndy says the growth in Avivo’s Community Support Program over the years have been dramatic. Serving 12 people its first year, Avivo’s program now serves more than 400 annually at three locations: Minneapolis, Crystal, and Bloomington.

 

 

 

TJ, a Hennepin County employee (middle), receives a letter of appreciation signed by Avivo’s CSP staff and program members.

 

When Harry looks back at his time with Avivo, he has a number of good memories. He helped manage a CSP softball team in 1993, which went 7-1 and won a 1st place trophy. He also remembers Super Bowl watch parties and playing pool in the location’s recreation room.

“Every day is different,” says Wanda Baas, manager of Minneapolis CSP location and veteran employee of 22-years. “You’d think after all this time it would all be the same. But it’s not. Everybody is different, and everybody is unique – it’s just amazing.”

“You’d think after all this time it would all be the same. But it’s not. Everybody is different, and everybody is unique – it’s just amazing.”

Wanda recalls a number of activities over the years, such as group games and camping trips. She’s seen many members of the program come and go, but some members, like Harry, have been around through it all.

Harry says that he’s been coming back more. “It’s good for my mental health to be with people,” he says. “Thank God for places like Avivo.”

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