Letter: The need for peer-run respites

Published 8:30 pm Tuesday, March 12, 2024

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A peer-run respite is a voluntary, short-term overnight program that provides community-based, non-clinical crisis support to help people find new hope and ways to move forward. It operates 24 hours per day in a home-like environment.

Peer-run respites engage guests in mutual, trusting relationships with peer staff. Peer support involves a process of mutual helping based on the principles of respect and shared responsibility. Peer support includes interactions in which individuals help themselves and others through fostering relationships and engaging in advocacy to empower people to participate in their community.

Peer-run respites were designed as psychiatric hospital diversion programs to support individuals experiencing or at-risk of a psychiatric crisis. The premise behind peer-run respites is that psychiatric emergency services can be avoided if less coercive or intrusive supports are available in the community.

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What is at issue is the lack of intermediate support for adults with mental health and/or addiction issues who are now seeking help through local hospital emergency rooms, experiencing interventions via local law enforcement, often learning there are no services that meet their needs until they experience a higher level of crisis in order to access more intensive residential treatment services, or face incarceration with jails or prisons. Lack of access to early community-based interventions such as peer respite services contribute to unnecessary, damaging trauma experienced by the person and often their loved ones. This often results in unnecessary loss of housing, education and employment, community life and established mental health services.

Peer Respite in Winona would offer pre-crisis supportive service to individuals who are experiencing challenging emotions. People would be supported without insurance barriers or the need for previous mental health diagnosis. Peer respite has proven to decrease Emergency Department visits and Psychiatric Hospitalizations by 40-70% with people served by peer support. Rural Winona would benefit from additional choices for individuals who want and need support.

How many more people will have to suffer because of the lack of mental health services such as peer-run respites? Can a peer-run respite facility benefit the Winona area? Who is willing to step up to see such a facility established here in Winona?

If you would like to express your views and opinions, I may be reached at gottahavehope38@gmail.com or in person at the Peer Support Network (PSN). located at 420 E. Sarnia St., Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. or Fridays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Mark Jacobson
peer support specialist