The nation’s first respite home managed by veterans for veterans experiencing mental health and substance use challenges is now open in Pewaukee. Known as a peer-run respite, the R&R House is operated by Mental Health America of Wisconsin under a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS).

“We are pleased to partner with Mental Health America of Wisconsin to offer peer-run respite services to individuals who have served our country and now need help for any type of mental health or substance use concern,” said DHS Interim Secretary Karen Timberlake. “The R&R House provides a community of support for veterans on their own recovery journeys by building on their common experiences to process challenges and strengthen resilience.”

Peer-run respites are staffed by people who use their unique set of mental health and substance use recovery experiences in combination with skills training to support adults facing similar challenges.

The R&R House operates in a similar way to the other peer-run respites funded by DHS. As with the existing peer-run respites—Iris Place in Appleton, Monarch House in Menomonie, and Solstice House in Madison—the staff at the R&R House provide around-the-clock support through overnight stays in a home-like environment and phone calls. What’s different about the R&R House is the people providing the support are veterans who understand the life experiences of veterans and the mental health and substance use challenges they face.

“The R&R House offers a unique space for veterans to connect with other veterans in an environment that supports their recovery,” said Brian Michel, program director of the R&R House and director of prevention services at Mental Health America of Wisconsin. “Whether staying with us overnight or talking with us on the phone, the R&R House encourages veterans to become active in their recovery, develop stronger coping skills, and to cultivate the confidence to reengage with the community they swore an oath to protect.”

During a free overnight stay, which must be arranged in advance through a conversation between the prospective guest and staff, the focus is on wellness. There are opportunities for one-on-one and group connections with staff and other guests to explore mental health and substance use crises as an opportunity for personal growth and change. While therapy is available through referrals, there are no clinicians on-site and guests are responsible for managing their own medication. Stays are voluntary and short-term, up to one week. Guests are free to come and go for school, work, family, and other responsibilities.

Peer-run respite guests stay in a private bedroom and share the home’s other spaces with other guests and staff. With three bedrooms, up to three guests can stay overnight at the R&R House at one time.

Currently, due to precautions in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic, only two veterans can stay overnight at one time. All guests are screened for COVID-19 symptoms and exposure before entering the home for an overnight stay. Guests are encouraged to limit their outings to essential activities.

During a free call for support, staff provide an opportunity for people to talk through challenging thoughts, feelings, and impulses with someone who can relate to the same experiences.

To inquire about an overnight stay or receive support by phone, call the R&R House at 262-336-9540.

Established in Wisconsin in 2015, peer-run respites are a key part of DHS efforts to prevent people from experiencing traumatic mental health and substance use crisis situations and costly hospitalizations. The R&R House receives $450,000 in funding each year from DHS. Iris Place, Monarch House, and Solstice House annually receive $441,666 in funding from DHS. The services at all four peer-run respites are available at no charge to people who live anywhere in the state.

Currently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Iris Place, Monarch House, and Solstice House only are providing support over the phone. Overnight stays have been suspended indefinitely. Visit the peer-run respite page on the DHS website for contact information for these peer-run respites and updates on their services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

DHS launched Resilient Wisconsin earlier this year to help all state residents find healthy ways to cope with challenges. This initiative provides strategies for practicing self-care, maintaining social connections, and reducing stress and anxiety, including a directory of helplines and virtual support meetings.


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