Sally’s Place, Alameda County’s First Peer-Run Respite, Opens its Doors
On Monday, January 21, 2019, Sally’s Place, Alameda County’s first peer-run respite house, opened its doors with a community-wide celebration that coincided perfectly with Martin Luther King Day. Peer respite is a voluntary, short-term program that provides non-clinical crisis support to help people find new understanding and ways to move forward with their recovery. Peer respite is a vital community-based alternative to emergency departments and other inpatient crisis services. Sally’s Place is named for Sally Zinman, a pioneer of the peer-led services movement and a decades-long peer advocate.
A major advocacy lesson learned along the way was about not giving up on the vision. The path to Sally’s Place began way back in 2007 when Alameda County Behavioral Healthcare Services held community forums on Prevention and Early Intervention, a component of Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act, which the voters of California passed in 2004. In the early days of discussing consumers’ priorities around mental health, the top three identified priorities from the Pool Of Consumer Champions were reducing stigma and discrimination, peer specialist training, and a peer-led respite model for people in crisis. The first two priorities got funding, but at the time, the county went in another direction for crisis services. Yet as Khatera Aslami-Tamplen, Consumer Empowerment Manager at Alameda County’s Behavioral Health Care Services division, explained: “We were always hopeful, and continued to point out that our system still has a gap in terms of voluntary peer-delivered crisis services that people can freely access in the community.”
It takes a village to raise a peer respite: Aslami-Tamplen emphasized the importance of relationship building in this successful advocacy effort. When the community was facing an advocacy push towards an increase in involuntary services around 2012, peer advocates took it as an opportunity to build relationships with the community and County Board of Supervisors to share their values and vision for voluntary crisis services and prevention. As a result, new allies were discovered, who helped to move Sally’s Place from a vision to a reality.
Another advocacy lesson learned was about the critical role of community partnerships. As Aslami-Tamplen shared: “I want to give a lot of credit to La Familia and its CEO Aaron Ortiz, who showed their deep commitment to the peer respite in concrete ways. They held one of their properties vacant for us for almost a year, and ultimately helped us locate just the right location in the community for our needs.”
Now that the doors are open, what can people do to support Sally’s place? Aslami-Tamplen encourages people to spread the word: to share the number and eligibility criteria widely. “We want people to know it’s available. Even if they were turned away from the psychiatric emergency room because they didn’t meet the criteria, they have a place they can call now. If the beds are full, the Sally’s Place staff will try to work with them to find somewhere to go and may even be able to help them get there. It’s a welcoming place where people in mental health distress can come and work with peers to get back on their recovery journey.”
What you can do: