Peer-Run Respites: FAQs

A peer-run respite is a place 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. Guests do not need a mental health or substance use diagnosis in order to stay at a peer-run respite.

Support from people who have been there

Peer-run respites are managed by people who have lived through emotional, psychological, and life challenges.  The peer support and other supportive services offered at a peer-run respite are designed to aid in the individual's recovery and avert crises and avoid hospitalizations. 

The following is a list of frequently asked questions regarding Wisconsin's peer-run respites.

Accessing a peer-run respite

Who is eligible to stay?

Adults (age 18 or older) who need or want peer support to navigate or avoid a crisis related to mental health and substance use concerns may stay at a peer-run respite. A specific diagnosis is not necessary. Guests must be residents of Wisconsin.

Who may benefit from a stay?

  • People who need support during a period of increased stress or symptoms related to mental health and substance use concerns, but not traditional medical care or treatment.
  • People who are willing and able to choose this service freely.
  • People who can safely and cooperatively live in a communal living environment.

How much does a stay cost?

There is no cost to stay at a peer-run respite.

What is the process to set up a stay?

Call the peer-run respite location and talk with staff about the services and supports available and whether these services and supports are the right ones at the right time.

Stays are voluntary. Services are provided at no cost to the guest.

Service providers, family members, and friends are welcome to contact one of the peer-run respites, but staff always will speak with the prospective guest prior to a stay. Because peer support is based on choice, individuals must self-refer to a peer-run respites. People who need someone to make a referral for them may need more help than a peer-run respite can offer. 

Peer-run respites are not drop-in centers. Please call and talk to staff before visiting one of the peer-run respites.

What if staff and the guest determine a stay is not a good fit?

If a stay at a peer-run respite is not in the best interest of a prospective guest, staff will provide information on other community resources available to the individual. For example, individuals in severe, immediate crisis may be referred to the county crisis line. The peer-run respites do not provide clinical services and supports. Individuals who are intoxicated, disrespectful, or verbally abusive are not good fits for the peer-run respite environment. 

Do the peer-run respites offer drop-in services?

No. Prospective guests must contact the peer-run respite prior to their intended stay to engage in a conversation with staff to determine if the environment suits their needs. 

Are the respites accessible to people with disabilities?

All three peer-run respites are accessible to people with disabilities.

Is transportation offered?

Guests are responsible for securing transportation to and from the peer-run respite. If guests need assistance accessing transportation, they should contact the peer-run respite. However, in general, the peer-run respites do not provide transportation services for guests.

Staying at a peer-run respite

What will a guest experience?

The peer-run respites offer guests 24/7 opportunities for one-on-one peer support as well as opportunities to connect in group settings. Peer support provides an opportunity to learn from one another to help everyone reach their goals and dreams. In other words, positive outcomes are more likely when people in emotional distress talk with someone who has been there rather than being isolated in the community with little to no support system. Services include wellness, educational, and social activities. All services are voluntary. Guests can come and go as they wish. This includes going to school, work, or appointments. Guests also may access recovery resources in the community. Guests are encouraged to complete wellness plans to help guide their journey. Guests may have visitors during their stay.

How many people can stay at one time?

The maximum number of guests at each peer run respite is limited by the number of bedrooms. Iris Place in Appleton has five bedrooms. Monarch House in Menomonie has four bedrooms. Solstice House in Madison has four bedrooms. Each guest has their own bedroom and access to shared community spaces. Each bedroom also has a lock box for medications and valuables.

Are the bedrooms private?

Yes. Bedrooms are not shared. Guests each have their own room.

How long may a guest stay at a peer-run respite?

Stays typically range from one to five days.

Are there restrictions on when guests can come and go?

No. Guests may come and go as they wish. Guests who may be gone for an extended period (24 hours or more) are encouraged to have a conversation with staff to discuss whether a stay at the peer-run respite is still needed.

Are clinical supports and services or other medical care offered?

No. There are no doctors or nurses on staff. Therefore, clinical supports and services like medication management and psychiatric services are not offered. However, staff will support individuals who may be interested in accessing these supports and services in the community. All guests have access to a lock box in their room for prescription medications.

Are there required activities?

No. There are no participation requirements. Everything is optional.

Are pets allowed?

Service animals are allowed. Due to concerns with allergies and the possible conflicting needs of others staying at the peer-run respite, animals who are not trained to do work or perform a specific task for a person in the way that service animals are trained are not allowed. The peer-run respites may be able to accommodate visits from pets.

Is transportation provided for guests?

There is no guarantee that staff will be available to provide transportation for guests to school, work, or other community activities. However, staff will work with guests to explore transportation options.

Staffing at the peer-run respites

How are the respites staffed?

Each peer-run respite is responsible for developing a staffing plan to ensure for the health, safety, and wellness of the guests, staff, and neighborhood. At least one staff member is on-site and awake 24/7/365. During the day and evening, there may be multiple staff on-site.

What is the level of training provided to staff?

Each peer-run respite is responsible for staff training and development. Many employees are certified peer specialists, a title earned through formal training and continuing education in the peer specialist model of mental health support. Each location also provides instruction on such topics as crisis de-escalation, cultural awareness, Emotional CPR, non-violent communication, and trauma-informed care.

History of peer-run respites in Wisconsin

What is the history of program?

The Peer-Run Respite Program is a key part of Wisconsin’s effort to improve community-based mental health and substance use services.

Wisconsin consumers and advocates began raising awareness about peer-run respites in 2012. In response, the Department of Health Services made a commitment to engage in further research. The research included several conference calls with representatives from peer-run respites operating in other states.

In early 2013, Governor Scott Walker met with consumers of behavioral health services and advocates to explore ways to enhance and expand behavioral health services in Wisconsin. Peer-run respites was one of the items discussed in this meeting. The 2013-2015 Biennial Budget included $1.2 million in funding for peer-run respites.

In the fall of 2013, the Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (now known as the Division of Care and Treatment Services) convened a committee to advise the Department of Health Services on the development and implementation of a Peer-Run Respite Program. In keeping with the peer-run value of the peer-run respite concept, the advisory committee’s makeup was a majority of individuals with lived experience of mental health and/or substance use disorders. Family members, providers, representatives from the Wisconsin Council on Mental Health, the State Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, county staff, and Department of Health Services staff participated. Additionally, an online survey was distributed in December 2013 to offer all stakeholders statewide an opportunity to offer comments on this program.

In 2014, Governor Scott Walker signed 2013 Wisconsin Act 129 which provided $125,000 in additional funding for the Peer-Run Respite Program.  This piece of legislation was part of the Speaker’s Task Force on Mental Health.

A Request for Proposals for the Peer-Run Respite Program was issued in March 2014 inviting interested parties to apply for grant money to develop and operate a peer-run respite in Wisconsin. Three grants were awarded in June 2014. Contracts were issued to Grassroots Empowerment Project, NAMI Fox Valley, and SOAR Case Management Services.

Iris Place in Appleton (NAMI Fox Valley) opened April 13, 2015. Solstice House (SOAR Case Management Services) in Madison opened January 4, 2016. The peer-run respite operated by Grassroots Empowerment Project (Grassroots Wellness) in Menomonie opened April 5, 2016. The contract with Grassroots Empowerment Project ended in the summer of 2018. 

The space housing Grassroots Wellness reopened as peer-run respite December 18, 2018, under new a name. Monarch House is managed by Wisconsin Milkweed Alliance through an arrangement with SOAR Case Management Services. 

How were the locations selected?

In June 2014, following a competitive application process, the Department of Health Services contracted with three non-profit organizations (Grassroots Empowerment Project, NAMI Fox Valley, and SOAR Case Management Services) to develop and operate peer-run respites. Most peer-run respites in the United States are located in residential neighborhoods. Locating and securing a property was a challenging task for each organization. Multiple factors were considered in the process, including lease availability and affordability, available space for group meetings, and the degree of improvements needed to create a home-like environment.

The contract with Grassroots Empowerment Project ended in the summer of 2018. The space housing Grassroots Empowerment Project's peer-run respite reopened as peer-run respite December 18, 2018, under new a name. Monarch House is managed by Wisconsin Milkweed Alliance through an arrangement with SOAR Case Management Services. 

What do neighbors need to know?

The Peer-Run Respite Program has the support of many elected officials, members of law enforcement, providers of mental health and substance use services, and Wisconsin residents who support a broad array of services for people living with mental health and substance use concerns.  Each peer-run respite is committed to working with neighbors and community leaders to be a good neighbor and a partner in community safety.

The people served at the peer run respites are not dangerous.  They are family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors who are seeking help with an issue impacting their emotional and physical well-being.  Peer-run respites serve people who have voluntarily decided to seek help for a mental health or substance use concern.  Prior to their stay, guests and staff talk about the values of the Peer-Run Respite Program, which include self-directed healing, and mutual respect. Only guests who respect these values are allowed to stay. Seeking help for mental health and substance use concerns can be very hard because of the way many in the public view people experiencing these concerns.  It is important to be welcoming and supportive. Research shows that seeking help early on increases the likelihood of positive outcomes for the individual.


The Division of Care and Treatment Services oversees the Peer-Run Respite Program for the Department of Health Services.

Last Revised: August 1, 2019