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Washtenaw United: Garrett’s Space - an innovative new option for mental health support for young adults

Garrett Halpert, who died by suicide in 2017.
Garrett's Space
Garrett Halpert, who died by suicide in 2017.


Julie Halpert

Julie is a freelance journalist who has written for numerous national media outlets including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Mental health was one of her beats when her son, Garrett, died by suicide in 2017 when he was 23 years. She and her husband, Scott, co-founded Garrett’s Space in 2019, a nonprofit that is establishing a non-medical, holistically focused residential center.

Scott Halpert

Scott was a practicing attorney from 1986 to 2017. He served as in-house counsel for Masco Corporation, a building products manufacturer, from 1990 to 2017, having responsibility in several areas, including corporate and contract work. He is now co-founder, president, CEO and director of Garrett’s Space.

Julie and Scott Halpert
Julie and Scott Halpert
Garrett's Space
Julie and Scott Halpert


Garrett's Space

Garrett's Space Mission and Vision

Garrett's Space Events

Washtenaw County Health Department: Suicide Report - April 2023

Summary of Garrett’s Space Governance and Initiatives to Reach Underserved Populations


David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU. And on today's Washtenaw United, we're going to explore the journey from personal tragedy to hope, inspiration and community benefit. I'm David Fair, and we're going to look at mental health and a planned facility to help those between the ages of 18 and 28 who are struggling to find safe haven and the tools and support necessary to become happy and healthy. Last month, the Superior Township Board passed a measure that will allow for construction of a brick-and-mortar healing center that, since 2019, has existed online. It's called Garrett's Space. And today, we're fortunate to have the co-founders with us, Scott and Julie Halpert. Thank you so much for making time to spend with us on Washtenaw United.

Scott Halpert: Thank you for having us.

David Fair: Scott, I think a lot of us have a certain perception of what a mental health care facility looks like and what can be offered through these kinds of places. The vision you've developed sounds far different. What is different about the way Garrett's Space will serve those who seek out your services?

Scott Halpert: Yes. So, we're creating a non-medical model. You know, when we we lost our son, we thought about the things that would have helped him the most, and we realized that really what he needed to be with were other young adults who are going through similar challenges and in a community that was really supportive to him. So, again, we thought about what would help Garrett, and we've created a non-medical model that's focused on connections and coping strategies and grounding activities, like yoga and meditation, art, healthy cooking, and things like that, and being immersed in nature. That's really important to what we're trying to create. These are all things that we found through research and through our looking at other places across the country that we know would benefit our son. And these are things that young adults are attracted to. When they're struggling, oftentimes, they're not motivated to go and find help. And this is really important. This was something that, you know, at the very end for our son, he didn't want to go to the E.R. He had been there before, and he was looking for, you know, a place that was different than what was out there currently.

David Fair: So, you brought it up. And I will note that, in 2017, your son Garrett did take his own life. Julie, I think this is a good opportunity to tell us about your son. Tell us about Garrett.

Julie Halpert: Well, Garrett was the most amazing young man you would ever meet. And I say that not just because I'm his mother, but because after he passed, people constantly told us how much he meant to them and how he was very gregarious and social. He was also an incredible athlete--one of the top tennis players in the state for his age. Very smart, had a wonderful sense of humor, tons of friends, and he was always the one who was reaching out and helping others. So, it was very hard that, you know, he had his own struggles, but he always put other people before him. He had many, many friends, family members, who adored him, as well as just an incredible social network. He was just good and kind and just an amazing young man.

David Fair: How do you address what is deemed as a struggle as to what is potentially a crisis?

Scott Halpert: Yeah, I mean, there's degrees to what your children are going through. You know, we're not mental health experts, but there are definitely signs when, you know, if your young adult is reclusive and he's not doing the things he was doing prior. And so, you know, when he's not communicating with the people around you or him, I should say, that's when, you know, you really need to step up. But, oftentimes, there may not be any signs at all.

Julie Halpert: And, oftentimes, young adults are reluctant to tell those who are close to them that they're struggling. So, that's always challenging. They may not even be living with people. They might be isolated or alone and struggling on their own. And people don't know that.

David Fair: And that may be part of what you're planning at Garrett's Space, correct? And that there will be a peer group of support where in, perhaps, sharing these stories becomes more easily accommodated.

Scott Halpert: Absolutely. So, what we're finding with our current programming is that the young adults are rallying around each other. They're finding a space where they can really be their authentic selves. And it's a safe space. They won't be judged by everyone around them. And this is really what they need. They need to see that their challenges are surmountable. And, you know, that's what they're finding when they come to Garrett's Space.

David Fair: This is 89 one WEMU, and we're talking with the founders of Garrett's Space, which helps young adults struggle with mental health. And it's going to open a facility on 76 acres of land in Superior Township. Julie and Scott Halpert is with us on Washtenaw United today. Scott, every parent listening today that hasn't gone through something like this will ask themselves, "How can I survive the loss of a child?" There are any number of case studies that show just how many don't recover when something like this happens. I'm curious as to the journey that you and Julie took together to turn this grief and loss into something that will provide hope and optimism for others.

Scott Halpert: Yes. So, it is the worst loss, in our view, that a parent can suffer--and siblings, for that matter. We realized that we had to rally around each other. We had to be there for each other because we've got two daughters still. And we also, you know, gained purpose by helping others through Garrett's Space.

Julie Halpert: Well, as Scott said, this gave us a purpose. And when Garrett passed away, we thought to ourselves, you know, we have to live with the fact that we could not save our son. And the only way that we could really feel like we could live a meaningful and purposeful life is to honor his goodness and try to save the lives of others. And we have been laser-focused on that ever since he passed away. And we've been very much united in our purpose of building this incredible, desperately needed place, so that young adults will have an incredible wraparound support option--a supplemental support option--that we haven't found really anywhere else.

David Fair: Garrett's Space, again, is forthcoming. Scott, how long is it going to now take to design and construct the facility, and when do you anticipate a grand opening?

Scott Halpert: We will finish our building sometime in 2026, and then, we will operate the center as a day program for about a year and then open it up as a residence in 2027.

Julie Halpert: There is an existing house on the property that we can use initially for day programming and administrative offices.

Scott Halpert: Right. So, we'll be doing that soon or sometime hopefully early next year.

David Fair: And, ultimately, how many people do you think you'll be able to serve at any given time?

Scott Halpert: At any given time, we believe that we'll have 15 to 20 young adults for residential stays for 3 to 4 weeks at a time, and then an additional ten or so who will come for day programming.

David Fair: We're talking with Julie and Scott Halpert on WEMU's Washtenaw United. They are co-founders of Garrett's Space named in honor of the son they lost in 2017. Scott, how was Garrett's Space going to be funded to make sure as many who need it will receive the services?

Scott Halpert: First of all, we received a $4 million federal government award to build the center. We also are going to be very soon commencing a capital campaign to help pay for the center going forward. It'll be a combination of philanthropy and private pay. We are also going to be pursuing insurance reimbursement, although that will be somewhat challenging because it's a non-medical model. So, it's a little bit different than what insurers are typically used to paying for.

Julie Halpert: But we will be offering this on a sliding scale, so anyone will be able to who qualifies will be able to attend, regardless of their ability to pay.

David Fair: And is the vision then to make the offerings of the upcoming Garrett's Space more widely available at other locations throughout the state as you look and project further down the road?

Scott Halpert: Yes, we hope that this will become a model that's replicated not only in Michigan but across the country. We know that we're creating something that will be really effective and save lives. And so, you know, we believe that this model will be replicated elsewhere.

David Fair: It will require the investment of the community to achieve the full vision. Julie, you have an upcoming opportunity for people to get involved financially?

Julie Halpert: Yes. For the past three years, we've held a 24-hour fundraiser online. It was streaming. This year, for the first time, we are in-person at the Washtenaw Community College Morris Lawrence Building, and it's going to be on August 25th. It's going to be an incredible event filled with all kinds of performers--Broadway performers, jazz musicians, classical musicians--as well as speakers, young adults who've been touched by depression and how they found their way out. And we also have an incredible silent auction with donations from over 100 businesses. It's going to be great. And we have a variety of ticket options, so we'd love to have to see lots of people from the community there.

David Fair: I know both of you carry Garrett with you every minute of every day, but I can't help but wonder what each of you may feel when you walk into Garrett's Space for the first time when that building is built and have his name on the building and his spirit inside the walls. Have either of you imagined that moment?

Scott Halpert: Yes, I certainly have. Like, I know it'll be incredibly emotional for me. I don't know how--I mean, obviously, mixed emotions. It will be bittersweet. We we think that Garrett's Space would have helped our own son. And to know that it it's not going to be able to do that is will be very sad. At the same time, we'll feel really great about the fact that we're helping others.

Julie Halpert: I mean, we are every part, everything that we do in the creation of this, we're guided by Garrett's goodness and Garrett's spirit. And I just have this vision of this beautiful, big photo of him in front of the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., hanging on the mantle of the house and just seeing him there, his spirit continuing to guide us and guide all these young adults. And, you know, I hope that he would be proud of us for what we're doing. We're doing this for him in the end and for all the many, many young adults out there who are losing hope.

David Fair: I would imagine he will be most proud. I like to thank both of you for coming in and sharing your story and hopes and aspirations for the future. It's been a long journey, and yet, it's just another beginning. Thank you both so much.

Julie Halpert: Thank you.

Scott Halpert: Thanks so much, David.

David Fair: That is Scott and Julie Halpert, co-founders of Garrett's Space, which will soon be represented with a holistic mental health care facility and healing center in Superior Township. For more information, visit our Web site at WEMU dot org. Washtenaw United is presented in partnership with the United Way of Washtenaw County. You hear it every Monday. I'm David Fair, and this is your community NPR station, 89 one WEMU FM, Ypsilanti.


United Way of Washtenaw County recognizes that suicide amongst youth, and people of all ages, is an ongoing issue that needs to be addressed. The Washtenaw County Health Department reports that suicide death rates have been increasing for the past two decades across the U.S., in Michigan, and in Washtenaw County.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts call 988, text 988, or visit the 988 Web Chatfor the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. You can also text HELLO to 741741 for the Crisis Text Line.

To address mental health concerns, Washtenaw County residents can:

  • Call the Community Mental Health CARES team 24/7 at: (734) 544-3050
  • Join the #wishyouknew campaign to participate in honest, supportive, and private conversations about mental health between youth and adults
  • Seek suicide-prevention resources from Washtenaw Alive
  • Help prevent suicide by following #BeThe1To’s Five Action Steps

WEMU has partnered with the United Way of Washtenaw Countyto explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area. And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services. It is a community voice. It is 'Washtenaw United.'

Non-commercial, fact based reporting is made possible by your financial support.  Make your donation to WEMU todayto keep your community NPR station thriving.

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Contact WEMU News at734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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