Since 1985 Artreach has been facilitating recovery and enhancing the quality of life for adults with mental illnesses through its programs in theater, music, visual arts, and recreation. Our programming is funded primarily by Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) with the help of private donations and the support of community and private foundations.Founder Ronna Sue Keil was quickly joined in her endeavor to create this agency by SJ Williams. Between Ronna’s visionary brainstorm to create a theater troupe that would perform comedy about mental health issues, and SJ’s technical and grant writing abilities, the two manifested the agency which would grow into Artreach, Inc., a 501(c)3 which is the home of The Second Step Players.
Ronna’s sharp perceptions about the mental health system, her great sense of humor and writing skills drove the skits in the early days. As the troupe became more sophisticated, Ronna encouraged everyone to write. Through group brainstorming sessions, people’s personal stories became sketch comedy encompassing all aspects of having and living with mental illnesses. It was truly a group experience shared with the world at large and every effort was made to include program members in all aspects of creating and producing a theatrical or musical performance.
Through the years, Artreach has continued to grow its program offerings to meet the needs of its members. Founded in 1985, Artreach was fueled by volunteer energy until its incorporation in April 1988. At this time, it presented performances on mental health topics by the Second Step Players. This theater troupe consists of people with chronic mental illnesses who act, write, and direct original comedy and drama and perform technical duties. In 1994, Artreach added the recreation program which provides transportation and tickets for cultural and recreational activities primarily in Southeastern Connecticut. A successful pilot, added in 2008, further rounds out the programming by integrating a wellness program and artistic skills building classes.