Keeping People Healthy and in the Community: A Q&A With Joe Clubb

Mar 28, 2024

Joe Clubb is in his seventh year on Guild’s board of directors, but his relationship with our organization goes back three decades! Today, he’s the vice president of operations for mental health and addiction at Allina Health, a role he’s held for eight years.

Joe has been working in the mental health field long enough to remember the days when patients and clients had to remain fully sober and “clean” in order to qualify for housing and other support programs … days when a slip up during the ongoing road of recovery meant they were refused the help they needed. In the years since, he’s seen progress made in the public’s perception and understanding of mental illness and addiction, as well as how the medical system approaches this kind of care, and he credits organizations like Guild with helping to make that progress happen.

We sat down with Joe recently to learn more about what he is seeing on the frontlines of the medical community, why he joined Guild’s board, and how organizations like ours help lighten the load for hospitals and clinics serving people with mental health and substance use issues. Meet Joe!

Tell us about your work at Allina, and how its mental health and addiction department has evolved under your leadership.

As the Vice President of Operations for Mental Health and Addiction at Allina, my partnership with Dr. Mary Beth Lardizabal and my transition from clinical social work to operations have been pivotal in driving Allina’s growth in mental health care throughout Minnesota. Our mission is to offer comprehensive, compassionate care to everyone in need, from the youngest to the eldest in our community. With 240 beds spread across six locations, Allina proudly provides a spectrum of inpatient care, including a unique, hospital-based in-patient addiction unit. This unit is specially designed for individuals facing multiple challenges, including medical issues, psychiatric conditions, and substance use disorders, offering them a lifeline through short-term stabilization aimed at seamlessly transitioning them to the next phase of their recovery journey.

In the last eight years, we’ve broadened our horizon with the significant expansion of our outpatient services, embracing the transformative potential of partial and day hospital programs. With nearly 600 spots available for partial day treatment, our goal is to make quality mental health care accessible to more people, right in their own communities. This approach not only supports those who may not need inpatient care but also ensures that our services are within easy reach of those who prefer or need to stay close to home.

Over the years I have learned that offering a collaborative, proactive approach helps avert crises and fosters a foundation for long-term well-being, ensuring that everyone under our care receives the support they need to thrive.

What made you want to join Guild’s board of directors? How would you describe your role here?

I’ve had a relationship with Guild outside of the board of directors for about 30 years — I’ve been doing this for a long time! Back during my time in clinical social work, I’d often interact with Guild’s case managers, and I was always so impressed with them. They were the few case managers who actually came onto the hospital campus and engaged with the patients who were their clients. They’d take referrals, sit in with the care team, get to know the care team, and really work to understand their clients.

I was ultimately invited onto the board by Grace, Guild’s first CEO, and now chair the program services committee with a really great team of board members, where we’re a thought partner to Beth Scheetz, Guild’s chief clinical officer, around any issue related to clinical services. For example, if there are services that Guild wants to get into, or services they want to expand or contract, Beth uses us as a collaborator to think through recommendations before moving forward with board review and approval. We also work through what’s most helpful for the board to see in terms of high-level outcomes from a clinical approach, and what’s appropriate for the clinical team to have for their day-to-day operations. It’s been an honor to serve on the board. 

Tell us more about the partnership between Allina and Guild, and why both are needed in order to treat the whole person when it comes to mental health and Substance Use Disorder.

Our hospital experience is a snapshot for the patient, whereas Guild has more of a longitudinal view of many of the clients they serve. Allina needs Guild as a partner to fully understand who the person is that we’re serving, because they see the long-term view of the individual. We only see them at their most vulnerable and at their sickest, and that’s not who they are in the community. It’s only a brief glimpse into who they are at that moment. 

How does Guild’s approach to mental health and housing services differ from traditional models that you’ve seen? How does that impact patient care and long-term outcomes?

I love the approach that Guild uses when collaborating with client-friendly landlords to have people dealing with serious mental illness remain more integrated with the community. If you can give somebody stable housing, they’re going to be more successful in their recovery and in their mental health. 

I’ve done this work for so long that I can remember when patients and clients had to be sober and clean before they could get housing. It was a barrier to their recovery. We’ve finally started to recognize that somebody can have a slip, somebody might have a setback on their journey, but guess what? They’ve got Guild surrounding them with care and support. They’re not alone. And you as the landlord can call on the clinical team for support. 

There’s something to be said about somebody having stable housing that they can discharge to versus the days when we had to send a lot of patients to shelters. Even then, we always knew it was going to be a horrible outcome. Hospital teams never felt good about discharging mental health patients to shelters. We knew it was a disaster waiting to happen. Programs like Guild keep people in stable housing. We’re especially grateful for their work supporting underserved communities where there is a greater need for housing, mental health support and substance use disorder recovery. 

How does advocacy work impact the mental health care industry?

Advocacy work can play an important role in determining whether people can even acquire the treatment and support they need to stay healthy and in the community. One example has to do with the Community Access for Disability Inclusion (CADI) Waiver, which provides funding for home and community-based services for children and adults who would otherwise require the level of care provided in a group home or facility.

For a time, when people who were covered under the CADI Waiver came into the hospital, they’d be removed from CADI funding after a certain number of days. This meant that we had to make a really difficult decision: either discharge them before they were ready so they could keep their funding, which created a lot of nervousness, or keep them in the hospital, which meant their CADI funding went away — and it could take months to get the funding put back in place. 

So what we did, through advocacy and, in my case, testifying, was request that CADI funding stay in place for a longer period of time. This was significant, because it was the holdup for a lot of people when seeking care. It wasn’t about facilities or having a bed available. It was about getting funding in place for them to pay for care. 

It passed, and because of that small change in policy- we can serve individuals until their needs are met. 

How do the mental health and housing services that Guild offers help alleviate pressure on the health care system and providers like Allina?

Organizations like Allina need — and our community needs — Guild, it’s crucial to have frontline in-home service that Guild provides to help keep people healthy and in the community. We only have so many beds and chairs to provide treatment, and Guild’s programs offer support that ultimately has a positive impact on our readmission rates back to emergency departments and hospitals.