+ By Katherine Matuszak  + Photos by Alison Harbaugh

This year, more than 42 million—one in four—Americans will experience a mental health disorder regardless of age, race, religion, gender, or economic status. Such a disorder could include depression, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, among others. According to the American Psychological Association, only 44 percent of individuals with a mental illness receive the treatment they need. One contributing factor is lack of access to care: either behavioral health facilities do not exist in the area of need, or community facilities cater to individuals who have private insurance or who can afford to pay out of pocket for services.

Wendy Berg proudly shows off her paper mache ladybug.

In 1955, the US government began deinstitutionalizing (releasing) long-stay patients—most with behavioral health disorders—from psychiatric hospitals. By the late 1970s, President Jimmy Carter’s Commission on Mental Health stated that deinstitutionalization had “the objective of maintaining the greatest degree of freedom, self-determination, autonomy, dignity, and integrity of body, mind, and spirit for the individual [with mental illness] while he or she participates in treatment or receives services.” This strategy, however, brought with it a new and serious problem: individuals and their families could not find places to receive proper treatment or services, leading many to forgo treatment.

In 1975, a group of parents in Anne Arundel County who found themselves in this situation with their adult children decided to take action by founding Arundel Lodge. The new nonprofit organization set out to improve the lives of children, adults, and families affected by mental health and substance use disorders.

Guided by the Recovery Model, Arundel Lodge’s philosophy is rooted in treating individuals experiencing behavioral health disorders with respect. The focus is on the needs, strengths, and goals of the community members it serves, assisting them in achieving their endeavors, helping them make decisions about treatment through education and linkages, and facilitating opportunities for social interaction, creative expression, and community involvement.

By 2005, growth in the community’s need prompted an expansion. Turning to architect Catherine Purple Cherry, who specializes in designing spaces for people with special needs, a welcoming, healing space was created. The expansion allowed the Arundel Lodge to add programs, such as the Open Eye Gallery and Studio Art Program.

The Open Eye Gallery and Studio Art Program offers a supportive environment for a community of artists in recovery from mental health and substance use disorders to grow, cope with trauma, and gain confidence through the visual arts. Much of the artwork produced by participants in Arundel Lodge’s art program is for sale. Eighty percent of profits from sales go directly to the artists, many of whom are on medical assistance, and the remaining 20 percent helps replenish art supplies. Most importantly, participants have the opportunity to explore their artistic interests and create expressive works that come from the heart.

Michelle Brookshire works on a mixed media piece.

Works from the Open Eye Gallery are displayed in shows and exhibitions around the community. This has included a recent Artists Without Limits Over the Rainbow show at the Arundel Center. In April, at 49 West Coffeehouse, Winebar & Galley, the exhibit Transformations displayed 54 works by 11 artists and included paintings, drawings, and mixed media. Asymmetrik, a software development company in Annapolis Junction, is hosting a spring and summer show featuring 35 works by 8 artists.

On Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, the Open Eye Gallery is open to the community for use as a studio space, with a suggested annual donation of $10, plus $2 per visit. While basic drawing supplies are provided, artists are also invited to bring their own supplies. The Open Eye Gallery and Art Studio Program also seeks volunteers to help with activities such as framing and hanging art, offering support and encouragement to clients, and more.

Today, Arundel Lodge serves over 3,000 community members annually and has been designated as a Center for Excellence in Recovery by the State of Maryland. In 2015, it added two important programs: First Step Recovery Program, to assist community members with substance use disorders, and the Marcus Youth and Family Center, which provides services to youth aged 4 to 17. In 2017, Arundel Lodge added a program to support transition-age youth—ages 16 to 25—in identifying educational and career goals and working to achieve them.

One of Arundel Lodge’s most recent endeavors is creating Military Veterans Support Services (MoVeSS) for veterans and their families. MoVeSS will be the “Call for a Cause” at Arundel Lodge’s 2018 annual fall fundraiser. Its theme is “Night in Havana,” and will include dinner, dancing, entertainment, and auctions. The organization is seeking sponsorship and item donations for the event.

Arundel Lodge seeks to improve the health and happiness of individuals and families through recovery-oriented services, and we are fortunate to have such a resource in our community.