The state of California has made a major move to help individuals struggling with their mental health. Late last year, state governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation that will set up a certification process for mental health peer counseling. This means that individuals living with a mental health condition will help others like them who are suffering. The goal? To reduce the number of inpatient hospitalizations for needed mental health counseling.
Part and parcel with these efforts comes community centers and respite care programs that will allow people suffering from psychiatric conditions to receive daytime or residential support.
“Long Beach has a peer respite center where guests can stay overnight and get support. Hacienda of Hope is still operating during the pandemic, although it’s limited the number of people who can stay to six at a time. At this house on a residential street, the food is free, people cook meals together and there are regular support group meetings,” NPR’s Marketwatch reported.
It’s not a locked setting and neither a diagnosis nor insurance is required to check in.
NPR Marketwatch interviewed Keris Jän Merick, a former chief of peer and allied health professions for the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. Merick lives with schizophrenia and says peer counseling can provide help like no other.
“It’s hard to navigate everything. So, having somebody who’s been through [it], they’re kind of like your GPS,” Myrick said.
Could services like this be coming to the state of West Virginia? While some counties here already have mental health peer support counseling measure in place, California’s new respite program is expected to cost the sate approximately $900,000 each year to run. Expensive, sure, but advocates say it would keep mental health patients from living in an institutionalized setting in exchange for better quality of life.