Drop-in center sees increase

BY ERIN MARSHALL | JUNE 26, 2014 5:00 AM

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The residents of Iowa City truly can call R Place “our place.”

Iowa City’s new mental-health drop-in center, R Place Peer Center has been open since February. However, R Place held its grand opening on Monday.

R Place, 220 Lafayette St., is affiliated with the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“[The National Alliance] is a grass-roots organization that was developed by loved ones — parents, primarily — who wanted to get together a network of loved ones who had mental illnesses,” said Marva Abel, a representative of the local chapter of the alliance.

The services offered by R Place are free to the people who come in.

“R Place is at no cost to the individuals coming in,” said Mary Issah, the executive director of the local chapter of the mental-health group.

That’s the unique part about what R Place offers, Issah said.

R Place has seen tremendous growth since its founding. In April, the center had 89 visits — its highest number yet.

“We’re just hoping to reach out and let people know,” Issah said.

Drop-in time at R Place is from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday through Friday. During drop-in time, individuals can come to R Place to relax, talk to others, do crafts, and read.

R Place also has peer support specialists who are available from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays.

“Those are people with lived experience working with other people on whatever situation they need help with,” Issah said.

R Place hopes to add a variety of other activities, including yoga and tai chi.

Issah also served on the committee that helped create R Place.

“It’s been a two-year process,” she said.

One other mental-health drop-in center exists in Johnson County, Issah said. The Conscious Living Center, 2711 Muscatine Ave., was created in 2009. It is affiliated with Builders of Hope, a mental-health-care provider in Iowa City.

Twenty-one other mental-health centers exist in Iowa, but not all of them are under the umbrella of the National Alliance, Abel said.

“It’s a place for [people with mental illnesses] to go to feel comfortable. There’s not the stigma that there would be elsewhere,” Abel said.

Although R Place and National Alliance are not affiliated with the University of Iowa, representatives from the University Counseling Service believe in the importance of mental-health drop-in centers.

“Any place where a person can go and get some help with mental health needs is very beneficial,” said Kathleen Staley, the counseling service’s assistant director for outreach.

The counseling service offers assistance to students with academic, career, personal, and interpersonal concerns, Staley said.

“We try to meet the needs of all students,” she said.

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