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Milwaukee gets first peer-run respite

Milwaukee gets first peer-run respite

The first peer-run respite in Milwaukee opened Tuesday, bringing a new model of mental health support to the city.

Milwaukee County residents with mental health or substance abuse challenges can stay at Parachute House for up to a week at a time.

The respite, which is staffed by people in recovery, provides wellness activities and connections to community supports. It’ll be able to serve up to five people at once.

“It’s for individuals who are in need of extra support,” said Nora Hitchcock, executive director of Our Space, a community living support service that runs the facility.

Parachute House is “a quiet space where they can relax, pause and reset themselves,” she said.

A stay at the facility could avoid more stressful and expensive interventions like the emergency room, Hitchcock said. The facility doesn’t provide clinical support, she added.

The respite is a Victorian house built in the late 1880s, located just north of downtown Milwaukee. The home still had gas light fixtures when renovations started.

“I fell in love with this house immediately and didn’t realize how much work it was going to be,” she said. “But it’s definitely been worth it.”

The state has provided funding for three peer-run respites in Appleton, Madison and Menomonie. As of December, more than 1,000 people have stayed at them.

In Parachute House’s case, Milwaukee County stepped in to provide $400,000 a year to support its operations. The county also provided $200,000 to get the facility started.

“This was something the community wanted,” said Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Division Administrator Mike Lappen. “We’re just thrilled.”

The state’s current budget allocated funding for a separate peer-run respite in the Milwaukee area to serve veterans, which has yet to open.

Department of Health Services spokeswoman Elizabeth Goodsitt said they expect to have a contract signed with the selected vendor by the end of the month.

This article first appeared in the Wisconsin Health News daily email newsletter. Sign up for your free trial here.

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