First NC Peer-Run Respite Opens as Alternative to Mental Health Hospitalization

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From North Carolina Health News: “This place, ‘Retreat @ the Plaza,’ opened in Charlotte in early August and is run by Promise Resource Network (PRN). It’s designed to be an alternative to hospitalization for people experiencing mental health distress. It’s the first peer-run respite house in North Carolina, meaning it’s completely staffed by people who have experienced mental illness, psychiatric hospitalizations, homelessness, incarceration, substance use or a combination of these.

The peer-run respite facility is free to participants and is designed to be a completely voluntary alternative for people who would otherwise seek mental health crisis care through the emergency room and possibly be involuntarily committed to a hospital.

. . . ‘We can and we must do better,’ said PRN CEO and founder Cherene Allen-Caraco. ‘There is no conversation that starts with “shackles and restraints are healing.” None.’

Allen-Caraco is a trauma and suicide attempt survivor who is vocally opposed to any form of forced psychiatric treatment. For years, she has advocated for and created alternatives at PRN, now taking the form of this new peer-run respite center.

‘And today we will do better because of effective, less costly, less traumatizing alternatives that exist,’ she said.

At $111 per day per guest, a stay at the respite house costs a lot less than a stay at a state-run psychiatric hospital, which averages $1,300 per day according to the NC Department of Health and Human Services. A Kaiser Family Foundation 2018 estimate found an even higher average cost of inpatient psychiatric treatment across North Carolina at $2,234 per day.

[Mecklenburg County Sheriff Gary McFadden] said he was dedicated to PRN because ‘somebody finally got it right,’ he said. ‘Somebody finally brought the people that can really tell the story. Those closest to the problem are often closest to the solution.’

. . . ‘There is so much right about what’s happening here today,’ said Victor Armstrong, director of Mental Health at the NC Department of Health and Human Services. ‘You have a facility here designed by and for people with lived experience, who should be showing us the way of how to provide behavioral health services.'”

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