Mental Health

‘Living Room' Opens as Unique Mental Health Center

For those in need of help, the center aims to be a free alternative to an emergency room visit or the police department

NBC Universal, Inc.

A new mental health support center is taking a unique approach at helping those who need assistance during their toughest moments.

The “Renaissance Living Room” is a nearly 3,000 square-foot facility in the city’s Austin neighborhood in the 4800 block of West Chicago Avenue.

The facility was constructed to look like your typical living room. The goal is to provide people experiencing a mental health crisis another option instead of the emergency room or police department.

Michael Banghart, executive director of Renaissance social services, says anyone can “drop in” and use the facility for free.

“It’s a national model that’s been shown to be very effective,” said Banghart. “This is a place for people to come when they’re unsure about what to do next.”

The facility aims to be open 24/7 once it has enough staff. According to staff on site, there are still three open positions that have yet to be filled.

Banghart says the facility will provide free meals and beverages along with certified recovery support staff for guests to talk to. There are also soundproof “flex” and “chill” rooms where guests can stay overnight, if needed.

All of this is possible thanks to an $850,000 state grant, according to Banghart.

On Wednesday, Illinois Rep. Lashawn Ford helped to open the center at the ribbon cutting ceremony. In the past, he’s been vocal on addressing mental health in some of the city’s most violent areas.

“We need these all over the city. We know that there used to be mental health facilities that were shut down,” said Ford.

Morris Reed, executive director of the Westside Health Authority, says he hopes people treat this center like their own living room.

“That’s where you get your peace at, that’s where you can rethink, refocus,” said Reed.

The center will also have a free Narcan vending machine where guests will have access to the life-saving emergency overdose medication.

The “Renaissance Living Room” is looking to hire local residents, adding that a degree is not required.

For more information on the center, click here.

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