March 27, 2019
Jennifer Miller, 608-266-1683
Elizabeth Goodsitt, 608-266-1683

DHS Awards Grant to Fund New Peer-Run Respite for Veterans

Mental Health America of Wisconsin will run the program for veterans with mental health and substance use challenges

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) has awarded Mental Health America of Wisconsin a grant to develop and manage the nation’s first peer-run respite home for veterans experiencing distress related to mental health and substance use challenges.

The first peer-run respite opened in Wisconsin in 2015 as part of the reforms to the state’s behavioral health system to focus on the prevention of traumatic crisis situations and costly hospitalizations. Peer-run respites are places for people with mental health and substance use concerns who may be experiencing increased stress or symptoms and need to take a break in a peer-supported environment. Through overnight stays or calls for support, peer-run respites provide around-the-clock help and guidance from people with lived experience, who are now successful in recovery.

“The concept of peer-run respite services is ideal for veterans with behavioral health needs because they are being supported by other veterans who have walked in their shoes, both as a member of the military, and as a person who has faced mental health and substance use challenges,” says DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm. “This peer-to-peer connection often is the spark that is needed to ignite hope and healing.”

DHS grant funding supports the services provided at Iris Place in Appleton, Solstice House in Madison, and Monarch House in Menomonie. These peer-run respites serve adults of all backgrounds, but few veterans have used their services because these homes are not designed to cater to the unique needs of veterans, especially those who have served in combat.

The grant requires this peer-run respite to be located in the Milwaukee area, but its services will be available to veterans who live anywhere in the state. It’s a $307,668 start-up grant through June, with annual renewals of $450,000 available to support operations. Mental Health America of Wisconsin is in the process of finding a site for this peer-run respite.

In 2018, Wisconsin’s three existing peer-run respites hosted 366 people for overnight stays and answered 9,447 calls for support.