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ON the cost of saving money: the death of peer support centers

Posted Feb 12 2010 2:04pm

What is the price of misery? The state of Tennesse has an answer for you. $7 a day.

That is the price per person served that it takes to keep a peer support center open. For about $138,000 a year a center can kept open for anyone who needs it. For somewhere in the neighborhood of $122,000 the state can keep one bed in its psychiatric system open. The state of Tennessee this year is closingfrom what I last heard57 of 58 peer support centers. Is that math clear to everyone? The state has about $800,000,000 in its rainy day fund. For about $5-6 million dollars all the peer support centers can be kept open. The peer support centers are being closed. Is the math getting any clearer to anyone?

Peer support centers are one of the best ways we have come up with to provide a cost effective service to the mentally ill that not only helpsbut potentially saves money spent on huge expenses down the road. It gives people who have no where to go or nothing to belong to a resource that gives both. It provides socializationrecreationplus innumerable recovery classes and activities. They provide WRAP classes plus many others that give essential information and develop life saving skills to people who havein many cases no where else to get them. They give people self esteem and help them to learn to take charge of their own recovery and ultimately be a service and value to the communities in which they live. It keeps people out of the hospitalout of jailand out of the streets.

It keeps people from getting lost. It keeps people who tend to fall through the cracks from finding themselves living there. It tells people who are often treated like they have no valuebecause of the stigma of mental illnessthat they have ultimate value.

$7 a day doesn’t seem like a lot to pay. The real cost of the misery of mental illness is in broken livespsychiatric hospitalshomeless sheltersjailsfamilies torn apartjobs lostsuicidedepression lack of hopeand communities scarred and fractured. We only have to decide which one to pay. We will pay one.

If you live in Tennessee it is time for you to ask your legislator what he really knows about the cost of misery. It is time to ask simply“Why?” It is time to sharenot just the struggles you have hadbut your vision and possibility as a person. Write to newspapers. Talk to TV stations. Talk to people who are not struggling with mental illness and let them know this is a cause that benefits all of us. It makes it a better place to live for all of us.

If you live outside the state of Tennessee would you share your experience where you live with peer support centers? Particularly if you have any documentation of effectiveness or impact I would really appreciate it if you shared that.

If you had $7 a day would you pay it? Please ask the state if they will. Ask now.

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