An Alternative to Involuntary Outpatient Commitment: The Push to create the First LGBTQIA+ Peer Respite in the World in Massachusetts Through the Legislative Process

Efraim Akiva, Sarah Yousuf, and Thomas Brown

Ephraim Akiva of Wildflower Alliance, the Director of Afiya Peer Respite in Northampton, leads this presentation on efforts to create the first LGBTQIA+ peer respite in the world. Joined by Sarah Yousuf, Senior Supervising Attorney at Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee (MHLAC), an agency of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, and Legislative Advocate Thomas Brown, Ephraim describes the logic and need for peer respites to support people through experiences of trauma, thoughts and feelings of suicide, grief, hearing voices, domestic violence, sexual assault, post-incarceration, addiction, and other extreme states as an essential alternative to traditional psychiatric and traumatizing psychiatric hospitalizations. The panel next delineates the need for demographic-specific peer respites and why a LGBTQIA+ peer respite is a critical next-step in the peer respite movement, especially in light of the current political climate. This panel will also discuss how peer respites are a more viable option to help people who are undergoing mental health crises and is a better option than involuntary outpatient commitment.

Bill S.1238/H.3602: An Act Establishing Peer-Run Respite Centers Throughout the Commonwealth is the teams’ effort to establish two LGBTQIA respites in Massachusetts along with 12 other respites across the state, one in every county. The panel will describe their efforts of getting buy-in from the peer support community, finding a sponsor in the House and Senate, community State House advocacy, and other advocacy strategies employed to move this dream closer to a reality.