What is the Fairweather Lodge Program?
The Fairweather Lodge Program helps people reintegrate themselves into the community by providing emotional support, a place to live, and employment for its members. The program was developed by Dr. George Fairweather in California in 1963 as a result of extensive experimental research. In his studies, Dr. Fairweather found that people with serious mental illness are less likely to return to the hospital when they live and work together as a group, rather than live and work individually. His research also showed that the lodge program helps people stay in the community longer, provides more employment opportunities, and costs less than conventional treatment programs. Because of the success of the original groups, the Community Lodge Program has expanded considerably during the past 25 years and there are now lodges across the nation.
How Does A Lodge Operate?
Typically, lodges are small groups of four to eight people who share a house and own a small business. Each group must select a business to operate, for which they develop and implement a business plan. Lodge businesses have included lawn care, custodial or laundry services, printing, furniture building, shoe repair, catering, and other services. Lodge members assume specific positions of responsibility within the household and the business. For example, the business may have a manager and crew chief; the household, a cook and a medication supervisor. There are no live-in staff members at any lodge, although each lodge has access to a professional who is available for training and consultation whenever the group requests his or her help. Staff members are also on call 24 hours a day for emergencies. In addition, lodge members hire professional consultants - such as accountants and lawyers - to assist with lodge business operations. Responsibility for the house and business improves the member's self-confidence and helps them become more independent by giving them a stable role in the community.
Fairweather Lodge for Veterans in Pennsylvania
In April of 2016, OMHSAS made state funds available for the start-up of a statewide veteran Fairweather Lodge Initiative. OMHSAS was also awarded a federal Money Follows the Person (MFP) grant to develop Veteran specific Fairweather Lodges.
Veterans with mental health issues need a full continuum of residential, treatment and support essential for living, working, learning, and participating fully in the community. Veterans have been intensely immersed in a service environment that is largely based on a team approach. The returning home presents a myriad of complex physical and emotional issues related to re-acclimating to civilian life. This pilot project is bringing veterans back into their comfort zone where they can build upon their strengths and rely upon their peers to overcome their challenges. So far, veterans lodges are off and running in Erie, Venango and Cumberland/Perry counties. These facilities are solely designated as veteran Fairweather Lodges. Plans are also underway to develop 2 more veteran-specific lodges and this is only the beginning!