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Peer counseling program offers new approach to mental healthcare

Peer counseling program offers new approach to mental healthcare
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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A 101-year-old house on Grand Rapid’s northeast side is the setting for a very modern approach to mental health treatment.

The house, located in the 700 block of Leonard Street Northeast near Alpine Avenue, is the home of Still Waters Peer Respite. The program offers a new option to those seeking help for mental health and substance abuse.

It has all the amenities of home.

“People can come and feel like it’s a bed and breakfast. That’s essentially the feel we’re going for here,” said Megan Auffrey Zambiasi, Hope Network’s senior executive vice president for operations and strategy.

Still Waters Respite provides peer support instead of clinical support to help those who are struggling. The approach is new to West Michigan.

Auffrey Zambiasi said those who need help may feel “like they need other people around them to kinds of keep them on a schedule and to have some support.”

Network 180 and Hope Network have combined their expertise, along with a series of grants to provide the service.

The program is voluntary. Those seeking help can stay up to seven nights in one of the home’s four bedrooms.

The peer staff have already been through what those seeking help are going through now.

“Sometimes people just find it more comfortable to talk to somebody else who’s been through it. Many of us get support like that in other areas of our lives,” Auffrey Zambiasi said.

They can also help determine if the person needs held beyond peer counseling.

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Still Waters is only the second respite center in Michigan. There are 42 located across the US.

According to Hope Network and Network 180, people who seek out peer respite are 70% less likely to require inpatient treatment.

“It’s a really good way to catch people early on to keep things from escalating,” Network 180 Project Manager Izzy Rhodes said.

The center helps free up scarce resources for more serious cases in an already overburdened mental health treatment systems.

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