A peer-run respite is a safe house where people learn new skills for managing emotional crises. The atmosphere is warm, welcoming, home-like and supportive. This consumer-friendly environment contrast with institutional and impersonal locked psychiatric wards. Peer respites are run by with people who have gone through similar crises and are now doing well. The goal is avert the need for psychiatric hospitalization. Guests stay 1-7 days.
Benefits of peer-run respites
Peer-run respites reduce the stigma associated with involuntary treatment. Peers in Georgia contrast their peer respite to a psychiatric hospital as the “difference between heaven and hell.” Self-harm and violence are actually less likely than on locked psychiatric wards because of the atmosphere on locked wards is so pressured and impersonal. A California study showed significantly greater improvement and dramatically higher satisfaction with a peer-run residential program than with a locked psychiatric ward. Peer respites save money and lives, increasing independence, so people use less intrusive and costly mental health services in the future.
Peer-run respites cost about $250 per person per day; psychiatric hospitals cost $1,200 per day or more. Over a year, a 3-bed peer respite saves $1 million vs. psychiatric hospitals. Additional savings are realized on ER visits, police time and ambulance costs. In Nebraska, a 4-bedroom respite, and in rural New York, a 5-bedroom respite, both cost about $270,000 per year. In Georgia, 2-bedrooms cost about $300,000 per year, including drop-in center and 24-hour telephone support line for crisis. Creating 3 respites—in the Central and Western Massachusetts and Metro-Boston—will save $3 million per year. Studies of respites in New York and Maine indicate great returns of their governments’ investments in terms of quality of life and recovery for users.
Who is eligible?
In some peer respites, future guests do interviews with peer staff while they are well to prepare a crisis plan for going into respite when they are not well. Even self-injurious and actively suicidal people are welcome. The interview addresses how to keep guests feeling safe. Participation in all peer-run services is entirely voluntary.
Examples of successful peer-run respites
Currently, there are 8 peer-run respites in the U.S.: New Hampshire, Maine, W. Virginia, Ohio, Nebraska, Georgia and two in New York. New respites are starting up in Vermont, New Mexico, and Alaska. There are 6 peer-run respites overseas, with 3 new peer-run respites in the organizing stage.
Who pays for peer-run respites?
In some states, peer-run respites are funded by both federal SAMSHA block grants and state operating funds.
Peer-run respites are complementary to the existing infrastructure in the current system. Collaborative relationships are sought with other recovery-oriented services, including Recovery Learning Communities, Independent Living Centers and clubhouses.