Recovery Cafes: Radical Accessibility After Hours

Homewood Research Institute

After 6pm, where can young people go when experiencing a non-life-threatening mental health crisis? Usually, the answer is the Emergency Department. But a new model is gaining traction and providing options. In the UK, Recovery Cafés are operating in cities across the nation to divert people from poor experiences in ED’s because no other options exist. In a Recovery Café, people experiencing moments of mental health crisis can drop-in and connect with a peer supporter, recovery worker and clinical support (if necessary) in a community space until the crisis passes. They leave with new knowledge, a plan of what to do next, and a feeling they're not alone. Prototypes to expand this model to include youth and families is underway. Together we’ll explore the appetite for this innovation in Canada, the impact of being waitlists/being turned away, and look at the young person and family journey in seeking critical support.


Lisa Androulidakis
Lisa has worked across non-profit and charitable sectors for almost 16 years, both in Canada and the UK. A large focus of her work has been designing, implementing, and evaluating open access community-based mental health services. She is most passionate about putting research and evidence into action, so that services are impactful whilst ensuring they are co-designed, co-led and co-evaluated, with the voice of lived experience at the core. Lisa works as a partner at Habitus Collective in London, UK, helping charities and the NHS design bold innovative services that measurably improve the mental health and wellbeing of individuals and communities. She most recently has helped to design and secure funding for a number of Recovery Cafés in the UK. 

Callum Ross
Working for Habitus Collective UK, Callum works with organizations throughout North America and Europe with a specialization in Recovery and Peer Support initiatives. He currently co-chairs the International Peer Leadership Network whose goal is to increase the leadership capacity and collective power of Peer Supporters globally. Callum worked for the Canadian Mental Health Association in Calgary for 7 years where he created, at its time, the largest cross-organisation workforce of peer supporters in Canada. This change led to significant shifts in how mental health was supported by service providers. He has most recently led the creation of a first-of-its kind ‘innovation accelerator’ for Social Workers, to rapidly scale projects that improve the lives of children and families. Callum has extensive experience of leading service change and describes himself as being obsessed with using community lived experience, data, and innovation to improve outcomes for organizations delivering health and social services.

Key takeaways

  • Recovery Cafes or ‘Crisis Cafes’ are early intervention services across the UK designed to divert individuals in need from going to the emergency department when no other options are available, by offering them a community space where they can go to connect with a peer support worker, other youth, or recovery workers who can provide clinical support
  • Serves youth aged 11-18 and their caregivers
  • Drop-in based and non-referral, giving youth the opportunity to engage in treatment without pressure
  • These cafes have a great level of integration with other services, and have gained high acceptance and trust among hospitals, police, clinicians, etc

Key Themes

  1. Early intervention
  2. Peer support

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