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Living Room offers help for the overwhelmed

Published: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 8:40 a.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 9:02 a.m. CST

DeKALB – There is a quiet, safe place in DeKalb where people can go when life gets overwhelming.

The Living Room is a new crisis respite program at the Ben Gordon Center Community Support Campus, 631 S. First St. in DeKalb. The space, outfitted with soft lights and comfortable chairs, is free and open to everyone, whether or not they are a patient of the Ben Gordon Center.

“Say you’re having a really stressful day and you just don’t want to be by yourself,” Michelle LaPage, Ben Gordon Center director of marketing and development, said. “This is a calm, safe place to come.”

The Living Room is open from 10:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, though LaPage said the hours may be expanded in the future if center officials see a need. It is staffed with peer support counselors and licensed therapists. People needing emergency assistance with basic needs like food, housing or health care will also be referred to local resources that can help.

“Maybe somebody is losing their home, and that’s causing them anxiety,” LaPage said. “We can try to connect them with resources to help them out. ...We want people feeling anxious or depressed to come here instead of the emergency room. Anybody is anxious when they think they are going to have to go to the hospital. We can get people help here without having to go to the ER.”

Peer support counselors have been trained in providing counseling, and have also personally had mental health treatment. Peer counselors must have been successful with their treatment for at least a year. They have personal experience in managing their own crises, and LaPage said many people feel less intimidated and more understood when they have a peer counselor to talk to.

The program was inspired by Ben Gordon Center clinicians who were spending a lot of time performing assessments on patients in the emergency room, LaPage said. When people come to The Living Room, a licensed therapist performs an assessment, and peer counselors provide support throughout the person’s stay. It is the first program of its kind in northern Illinois.

The Living Room Ben Gordon Center Community Support Campus 631 S. First St., next to Barb City Manor (entrance on Haish Boulevard) 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday

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