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Recovery residence standards well-timed to changes in field

May 17, 2012
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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NARR reaches out to government agencies, associations at Washington conference

A voluntary but nationally impactful standard for the operations of recovery residences is increasingly being seen as enhancing the credibility of these post-treatment housing options at a time when recovery support is receiving unprecedented attention in policy discussions.

At last week’s conference of the National Association of Recovery Residences (NARR), a fledgling group that already has direct representation from more than a dozen states, leaders from several government agencies and professional associations encouraged operators of recovery homes to become prominent voices nationally for the importance of their role in recovery-oriented systems of care.

At a time in Washington when “cuts and compromises are going to be required,” in the words of David K. Mineta of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), “This [environment] lets us focus on what works best,” ONDCP’s deputy director of demand reduction said at NARR’s meeting.

The levels of support that NARR leaders agreed upon in 2011 to establish a standard for recovery residence operations will go a long way toward documenting the effectiveness of these residences for their tenants, Mineta and others agreed during the May 10-12 conference.

“Our standards are what those we serve deserve,” said Beth Fisher, executive director of Hope Homes, Inc. and one of NARR’s founding members.

In a presentation about the NARR standards at the conference, Fisher walked attendees through the four levels of support in the NARR standards, ranging from the completely peer-run model at a Level 1 recovery home to a Level 4 residence affiliated with a treatment provider and offering services delivered by licensed clinicians.

Fisher warned attendees with recovery residences at levels 1 through 3 not to market their operations using words such as “treatment,” “therapy” or “counseling.” In addition, the standards do not assume that one level of service is superior to another, she said.

In fact, the more peer-dominated Level 1 homes (the Oxford House model is most often associated with this level) currently have a more substantial research basis than the residences with more of a treatment presence. And Level 1 unsupervised homes could actually be seen as the ultimate destination for recovering individuals who graduate from a more supervised setting as they acquire life skills.

Holding their meeting in Washington, NARR leaders were able to gather with leaders of other associations in the addiction community as well as to meet with an official with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Also, a meeting that was conducted at the offices of the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors (NASADAD) included representatives from Faces and Voices of Recovery, Treatment Communities of America (TCA), and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

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