SALT LAKE CITY — To start, clients of Weber Human Services' Wellness Clinic struggled to walk around the block — once.
Eight months later, clients of the state's first integrated clinic for mental and physical health can walk nearly a mile, which is significant, considering that the physical health of many people with mental illness in Utah is so poor that their average life spans are 25 years shorter than the general population.
"It's going to take a little longer to get back into good physical shape," said Shauna Williams, who directs wellness efforts at the Ogden Clinic, during a presentation Thursday at The National Alliance on Mental Illness Utah 2011 State Conference on the University of Utah campus.
The walks also serve a social purpose, Williams said.
One client, who has lived many years as recluse, has become a regular participant. Walkers pair off in twos for the trek. "We walk, we talk and this gentleman has found a friend," which is another important aspect of wellness, Williams said.
The clinic, a collaboration between Weber Human Services and Midtown Community Health Center, is serving about 360 clients in its inaugural year, said Karen Bassett, project manager. NAMI serves families from an office in the clinic.
The clinic brings physical health and mental health providers under one roof at 237 26th Street in Ogden. One of the clinic's other goals is to engage consumers as partners in their overall well-being. That means quitting smoking, exercising, learning to shop for and cook healthy meals, and giving back to the community.
Clients have knitted 55 caps, which have been given to patients of McKay-Dee Hospital Cancer Center and the homeless shelter.
Some clients take part in a weekly yoga class at the clinic. "We're getting more men than women in the yoga class," Williams said.
While clients of the clinic are not required to attend wellness activities many participate in various classes, which also include instruction on personal safety and job skills.
"The one thing we like to think about our center is one-stop shopping," Williams said.
Surveys of clients indicate they are pleased with the operation clinic and medical tests and measurements suggest they are experiencing improved health and wellness.
"In every area, after six months, these outcomes are significantly improved," Bassett said.