As more addiction treatment organizations have begun to appreciate the importance of peer-delivered recovery support services to a robust recovery, members of the recovery community say they must ensure that these services retain their peer-to-peer flavor and not simply evolve into part of a “system.”
A major announcement last month indicates that consensus has developed around accreditation of recovery community organizations as the optimal strategy for maintaining the integrity of these recovery support services.
Faces & Voices of Recovery has announced the establishment of the Council on Accreditation of Peer Recovery Support Services (CAPRSS), and the first five pilot site visits of organizations that will test the new accreditation standards are scheduled to be completed by October.
“The difference with these standards is they were developed directly from recovery and peer experience,” says Tom Hill, director of programs at Faces & Voices of Recovery. “They came from the grassroots.”
Hill adds, “Recovery community values emphasize how to incorporate lived experience and use that consciously. Without that, it’s business as usual.”
Hill explains that the move toward accreditation standards grew out of the experience of grantees under the federal Recovery Community Services Program. With the blessing of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Faces & Voices assumed leadership of an initiative that took the quality indicators that came out of grantees’ experience and built consensus for service and management standards for recovery community organizations. That consensus-building process began with a stakeholders’ meeting in January 2011.
Hill clarifies that the accreditation process targets recovery community organizations and programs that employ peers to deliver support services to others in recovery. Certification of individual peers is a separate activity outside the scope of this initiative, and in some locations that certification effort is already taking place at the state level.
He also points out that this accreditation effort has been focused only on addiction recovery peer services and not on programs using peers in mental health service delivery. While the peer efforts in those two worlds have evolved along somewhat different lines, Hill says the mental health peer community has expressed interest in what CAPRSS is doing, and he did not reject the idea that the effort could be broadened at some point in the future.
Hill says it is difficult to quantify the existing universe of recovery community organizations because lately, word of a new one is coming up virtually all the time. The Association of Recovery Community Organizations now encompasses about 85 organizations providing recovery support services in their communities.
Areas of focus
One such organization is the Recovery Alliance, organized in 1998 in El Paso, Texas. It started with a stigma-fighting mission and then would become a Recovery Community Services Program grantee, opening a recovery community center in 2002. Its executive director, Ben Bass, serves on Faces & Voices’ board of directors and believes the accreditation initiative reflects an important effort to preserve the integrity of peer services.
“In 20 years we don’t want to look back and say we lost the peer nature of what we were doing,” says Bass.
He adds, “We wanted to make sure that we continue to meet people in the same places where they were on the power curve, not a top-down approach. We want to make sure people have a recovery plan of their own, rather than be in a treatment plan box.”