Calif. Counties Adopt Peer-Run Respites for Mental Health Treatment
California counties increasingly are adopting residential respite houses for individuals with mental health conditions in an effort to reduce the number of such individuals being sent to hospitals and jails, HealthyCal reports.
As of 2007, California had fewer than half of the national average of psychiatric beds per capita, according to a 2010 report from the California Mental Health Planning Council. The report said that residential crisis programs, including respites, would reduce that gap.
Such programs cost about 75% less than hospital inpatient care and often can be more effective, according to the report.
Residential respites are run by individuals who have been consumers of the state's mental health system, HealthyCal reports.
Yana Jacobs -- chief of outpatient adult services at the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency's Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services unit -- said peer-run respites can prevent individuals with mental illnesses from being incarcerated or forced into hospitalizations.
Details of Respites in Calif.
There are three residential respites in California -- two in Los Angeles County and one in Santa Cruz County. In addition, San Francisco and Santa Barbara counties are in the process of establishing respites and Alameda County is considering opening one, according to HealthyCal.
However, advocates note that the latter three respites under development will not be considered "peer-run," because such individuals will not be in administrative positions. Specifically, advocates said that without a peer-run model, hierarchical administration structures could undermine:
- Decision-making; and
- Equality between clients and support stuff.
In San Francisco, the need for the care offered through respites is particularly important. Mayor Ed Lee (D) has noted that nearly 800 inmates in the city's jail have mental health issues.
Kelly Kiramoto, acting director of transitions at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, said the city's new respite initially will include:
- Four beds;
- Five peer counselors; and
- Six entry-level mental health workers.
Oryx Cohen, director of the National Empowerment Center's Technical Assistance Center, said that the growth of respites is steady but slow.
He noted that one barrier to greater adoption of respites is the stigma that mental health consumers are unable to handle crisis situations. Cohen said, "Departments of mental health and behavioral health just need to be educated and need to see that this is a viable alternative" (Graebner, HealthyCal, 8/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.