The Living Room in La Grange, which is operated by NAMI Metro Suburban. \ Below, Jeffrey Shapiro, a recovery support specialist with NAMI, during a recent tour of the facility. | Michael Romain/VFP
Tuesday, March 28, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Metro Suburban, an Oak Park-based affiliate of the national NAMI organization, is marking its 25th year in existence by getting the word out about a new community wellness and respite center it opened last October in La Grange, which will serve residents in Lyons and Proviso Townships primarily.
The Oak Park institution is well-known for its drop-in center at 816 Harrison St., the first “free-standing, consumer operated” drop-in center in Illinois, according to NAMI Metro Suburban’s website. The center is designed to give individuals suffering from mental illness a safe, stigma-free zone where they can socialize and get numerous support services.
“This is actually two different programs in one building,” said Kimberly Knake, NAMI-Metro Suburban’s executive director, during an information session and tour of the facility held for local law enforcement and elected officials on March 1.
One portion of the facility, the community wellness center, offers mental health education that’s geared toward parents.
“We educate them on everything from the neuroscience behind the development of the teenage brain and its relationship with mental illness to yoga and meditation,” Knake said. “We really want to empower parents to understand more about mental health and give them the skills to bring back to their families.”
Another portion of the building, called the Living Room, is a respite space for individuals, age 18 and up, who suffer from mental illness symptoms. The goal of the room, Knake said, is to reduce “costly hospitalizations for people feeling an increase in their mental health symptoms.”
Before opening the center, Knake said, NAMI officials researched 30 different police departments in Lyons and Proviso Township. They found that those departments fielded an average of 150 mental health crisis calls a year.
“The police officers we heard from would tell us that they’d go out on a mental health crisis call and someone’s loved one wasn’t a harm to themselves or others but were experiencing an increase in their symptoms and psychoses,” she said. “The police really couldn’t do anything with them. Then, 45 to 60 days later, the police would be called back to the home when the person was experiencing a full psychotic episode and that person would have to be transported to the hospital.”
Shelly Lustrup, a licensed clinical social worker and director of recovery support services for NAMI Metro Suburban, said that the Living Room — so called in order to shake the stigma that comes with the NAMI name — takes in the individuals who police can’t do anything with.
The service is free of charge, with numerous private foundations footing the bill, and the carpeted interior — replete with a plush leather sofa and subtle, stress-reducing atmospherics like a synthetic waterfall — are designed to put clients at ease when they arrive.
“Anybody feeling an increase in their symptoms should come to us,” Lustrupe said, “whether they’re having a panic attack or an increase in anxiety, depression or bipolar symptoms. When someone comes in and are in such a psychotic state that they’re not [in touch with reality or are suicidal], then we’re not a good fit. We’ll transport them to a hospital.”
Lustrup said NAMI will order Uber or cab rides to and from the facility for individuals who need transportation.
She added that the center is open seven days a week, 365 days a year and is staffed with five recovery support specialists. The specialists, who have experienced mental illness themselves, help individuals identify obstacles to recovery and any triggers that might prompt episodes. The specialists also help develop action plans for those admitted.
For more info, click here. VFP
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