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Recovery homes' reputation rides in part on treatment centers

May 8, 2014
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Florida recovery home operators who would like to see more widespread use of standards that would further separate high-quality homes from pretenders know they cannot succeed by acting alone. Much of their strategy for professionalizing the transitional housing community involves enlisting the support of those primary treatment centers that believe in the value of safe and sober housing as a bridge to life in the community post-treatment.

The Florida Association of Recovery Residences (FARR) has established a Partner in Excellence initiative in which treatment centers can directly support association efforts such as certification-related inspections of recovery residences and sharing of best-practices information to home operators. FARR president John Lehman says about 30 treatment facilities have enrolled as partners so far, most at the lowest-option support level of $500 but some (such as Hanley Center) contributing substantially more.

The partners are listed on the FARR website, which also includes a list of FARR's certified recovery homes. Proposed state legislation that was not adopted before adjournment of this year's session would have required treatment centers to refer patients only to certified recovery residences that meet operating standards for sober communities that respect the rights of residents and nurture lasting recovery.

As Lehman states on a fact sheet describing the monetary support sought from treatment centers in the Partner in Excellence effort, “This could easily come from their marketing budget and not be missed.”

Encouraging certification

FARR also has been seeking to drive a faster pace of voluntary certification of recovery homes, by asking treatment facilities to give preferential treatment to certified residences in their referral decisions. It has asked treatment centers to encourage recovery homes to become certified by a time certain or risk not receiving referrals from that center, and treatment centers such as Caron Renaissance have been demanding just that.

Partner in Excellence participants can contribute at a level of $500, $1,000, $2,500 or $5,000. FARR has a budget of $50,000 apiece for audit and grievance inspections of residences and for development and delivery of best practices content, and it is looking to the treatment community to fulfill that financial need.

In South Florida, where Lehman's payment processing service for businesses is based and where recovery homes good and bad have prospered, some longstanding home operators are pleased with the role FARR is playing in advancing standards of operation and pushing for legislation that preserves sober homes' legal right to operate while also protecting residents, their families, and the public.

“FARR is a godsend for what's going on in South Florida,” says Steve Latture, marketing and admissions manager at Sober Living in Delray, a Delray Beach sober apartment community for men and women (in gender-separate buildings) that has 25 staff members and also includes its own outpatient services component. Residents pay $225 a week to live there and pursue a life in the community during their early recovery.

There are an estimated 5,000 recovery residence beds in Delray Beach, which is located in the southern half of Palm Beach County. South Florida in general is home to recovery residences that run the gamut in terms of amenities, management and oversight. Lehman tells the horror story of a young man he encountered from one of the residences, whose family got suspicious after learning that some of his government assistance was being funneled to the home instead of directly to the resident. Later, when the resident informed staff that two of his roommates were using drugs on the property, the response he received was, “We'll move you to another room,” Lehman recalls.

Latture says it is critical for recovery residences to establish strong working partnerships with treatment centers. Sober Living in Delray likes to hear from a treatment facility at least a week to 10 days before a patient's discharge, if not sooner, in order to prepare for the move to transitional housing. Also, he says, “We like to do 30-day updates” to the center to inform its aftercare coordinators of how well the former patient is doing in meeting the terms of his/her aftercare plan while residing in the housing.

Sober Living in Delray maintains strict standards of conduct in order to preserve the sober environment. If a resident cannot be located after multiple tries on a day in which he learned in the morning that he needed to submit to drug testing by day's end, the locks to his apartment are automatically changed. A positive drug test results in the resident having to leave the premises in order to go to a hospital, another halfway house, or a hotel, and that person can't return to the community for at least two weeks, Latture says.

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