BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — There’s a new health center opening in the Fruit Belt neighborhood in Buffalo for anyone who may be struggling. It will be a one-stop shop to treat a variety of mental illnesses.
The Kirsten Vincent Respite and Recovery Center opens in about a week and a half. It’s located on Maple Street to serve a community who otherwise doesn’t have easy access to this important care. It is a safe haven for people experiencing a mental health crisis where they can plan and begin their recovery.
This center is a collaboration between Recovery Options Made Easy, WNY Independent Living and Mental Health Peer Connections who run the Renewal Center, and Spectrum Health and Human Services.
“People have the opportunity to have access to services where they live from people who look like them,” Shannon Higbee, CEO of Recovery Option Made Easy, told News 4.
It is named in honor of Dr. Kirsten Vincent, who died suddenly in 2021. She had a vision for an all-inclusive mental health facility that provided many levels of care.
This is a first-of-its kind center offering support across the mental healthcare spectrum, providing an alternative option to a hospital. There are four main programs with additional external resources available.
“There isn’t anything in the country that is quite like this in terms of having so many levels of service in one space specifically aimed at mental health crisis,” Higbee said.
The short-term crisis respite will be open 24/7 and is a self-refer recovery option for people who identify that they are experiencing a crisis. This is a peer-staffed facility that provides recovery options in a home-like setting.
The intensive crisis respite is also a 24/7 option that provides mental health support and medication management for people experiencing other health problems. Clinical staff will also be on hand to assist people transition back to home or another setting.
Spectrum Health Clinical Engagement Program provides education, encouragement and counseling services to adults. This includes crisis intervention, counseling and crisis assessment. This will be staffed Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Renewal Center will move from it’s Elm Street location to this new facility, offering the peer-to-peer assistance. This is based on a living room model where people experiencing a mental health crisis can walk in and feel at home, speaking with peers who have experienced a similar problem in the past. This services is walk-in based and is open seven days per week from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.
“Anyone can call and do a quick telephone interview. Our goal is if someone is reaching out we want to get them into our services as quickly as possible. We are truly here and we will continue to be here,” Jennifer Levesque, director of licensed and clinical service at Recovery Options Made Easy, added.
“With all the challenges with racism and all those different things, they want to come to a place where they can feel comfortable. They want to come to a place where they know the people that are staff here have gone through some of the same challenges and they understand,” Renne Law-King, program manager for the Renewal Center, continued.
The mass shooting at the Tops on Jefferson Avenue in May 2022 underscored the importance for this center, which has been in the works for many years.
“In the wake of the 5/14 shooting, it’s become even more important that we integrate into the community,” Higbee said.
“With all the challenges with racism and all those different things, they want to come to a place where they can feel comfortable. They want to come to a place where they know the people that are staff here have gone through some of the same challenges and they understand,” Law-King continued.
One goal of the center is to staff it with neighbors from the Fruit Belt community to make it a welcoming environment for people in their time of need. The Peer Employment Mentorship Program is available to residents who want to help others and make a difference in their community. To be involved, mentors need a high school diploma or GED, must be between 18-26 years old and be willing to use their personal experiences to help other neighbors. People in this program will go through New York State Office of Mental Health Peer Certification training, which is free, and it can create job opportunities, even a career.
The center is having a grand opening ribbon cutting on Tuesday, April 11 at 1 p.m. It will open it’s doors for the short-term recovery respite on April 17. As other sections of the facility are completed, the center will phase in the other programs.
For additional information on service options or if you are experiencing a mental health crisis, you can call The Kirsten Vincent Respite and Recovery Center at (716) 532-5508 or visit the center at 111 Maple Street.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.