CLINTON — A peer-run respite house has opened in DeWitt, the first such house in a rural area in the country, according to its director.

Life Connections Peer Recovery Services Executive Director Todd Noack said the peer respite house, named Rhonda’s House, opened Oct. 22. The respite house is located at 1131 Hospital Drive, DeWitt, and is named to memorialize Rhonda Shouse, who died in March 2017.

The facility is geared toward helping people with mental health and/or substance abuse issues. Noack said the respite house will serve people from anywhere, although mostly from within the Eastern Iowa Disability Region that is composed of Cedar, Clinton, Jackson, Muscatine and Scott counties.

“The rural area is nice because if you come out here you’re not around all the hectic things in Davenport or Clinton,” Noack said. “And some of the law enforcement and other folks said you really need to do this in Davenport or Clinton. I said no, I really need to do it out there because it’s quiet.”

Noack said he looked at a different location first but said he had problems with the location, citing zoning issues with the city. Noack reached out to Genesis Health System, saying he knew Genesis owned three houses. Curt Coleman of Genesis eventually made the decision to move forward with the project.

He said individuals interested in using the house are required to call and go through a small screening process. Noack said that during the screening they look at whether a person is suicidal and whether he or she is at risk of hurting themselves or others.

“One of the requirements here is you must be substance free for 24 hours,” Noack said. “We understand people with mental health issues have substance abuse issues. So we know that there’s that possibility of drinking or smoking marijuana or whatever. But in 24 hours we want them to be clean. Once we go through all that, and the other big piece is having a residence. When they leave here, they’ve got to have a home they’re going back to. Because otherwise we’d be classified as a homeless shelter. And that’s not what this is. This is a change in your environment to get through what you’re going through at the present time.”

The facility, which has the ability to house three individuals at the same time, offers housing anywhere from 24 hours to seven days in a 60-day period. The facility takes calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week and accepts people from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Noack said that last week they received two calls that got diverted to other resources. He said this week an individual stayed at the house for two days. The individual came to the respite house through Vera French and the Assertive Community Treatment Team.

“We were able to help this person along with the ACT team,” Noack said. “And that’s what we’re talking about. That’s the collaboration. Working with the ACT team. Working with Genesis. This needs to be a bridge of partners working together. It’s not about me. It’s not about one person. And it’s not about any organization. It is about the person.”