Peer Run Respite is on its way in the Fox Cities

By Karen Iverson Riggers, CPS
Peer Run Respite Director

karen_schillerProgress continues toward NAMI Fox Valley’s Peer Run Respite Center. I had the privilege of attending  the Alternatives Conference in Orlando (funded by the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services dministration).

Alternatives is the largest peer/consumer/survivor mental health conference organized by and for peers. The theme was “Creating the Future: Change, Challenge, Opportunity” with speakers and workshops focusing on the opportunities and challenges of creating change in our mental health systems.

I had the opportunity to connect with the national network of Peer Run Respites currently operating or in the planning phase. The National Empowerment Center has a section of its website dedicated to crisis alternatives and Peer Run Respite and Warmlines:

The learning and connections will be incredibly helpful in implementing this peer-run crisis alternative in our state. With the additions of Val Neff (House Manager), Kara Patterson (Program Coordinator) and John Rose (Guest Services Coordinator) to our Peer Run Respite staff, we are excited to move forward in making this dream a reality!

We attended a week-long Intentional Peer Support (IPS) training along with Paula Verrett and Evelyn Koehnke from our NAMI Fox Valley staff, and Peer Run Respite staff from GEP (Grassroots mpowerment Project) and SOAR Case Management, which are the other two agencies implementing respites in our state. IPS was founded by Shery Mead and focuses on thinking about and inviting powerfully transformative relationships among people.

IPS emphasizes mutual conversations and creating new ways of “knowing” through dialogue. IPS is about building stronger, healthier, interconnected communities and will be instrumental in helping us move toward Peer Run Respite as a healing, trauma-informed alternative to support peers in moving toward what they want versuswhat they want to stop or avoid doing.

We are close to securing a property in Appleton for the respite center. The lease is under review by the property owner and we are excited about what the potential space can offer. Additional staff positions for the respite will be posted in mid-December. Because the respite will be staffed 24/7/365, we will be offering Peer Companion staff opportunities for individuals with lived experience. Watch our website for updates and more information.

The Peer Run Respite Advisory Board will be responsible for planning, implementation and evaluation of our respite. The advisory board meets monthly and includes workgroups on policy, property and programs. We are thankful for their dedication as well as the variety of community stakeholders at the table to help support the respite. The advisory board is peer-led, meaning that more than half are individuals with lived experience.

Get Involved! Volunteer or join one of our Peer Run Respite work groups. We are also holding a contest to name our Peer Run Respite center and develop its logo. Submit your name and/or logo idea to prrname@gmail. com by Dec. 19. Questions? Contact Karen at or (920) 954-1550.