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Building on a rich history

December 14, 2012
by Beth Fisher, LCSW, LCAS, MAC, CCS
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The primer states, “The availability of a particular [recovery residence] Level of Support is most often reflective of state law. Even though people in recovery are a protected class under the federal Fair Housing Act and its Amendments, local governments under Not in My Back Yard (NIMBY) political pressure often times illegally discriminate against people in recovery with land use or health and safety ordinances that regulate [recovery residences] above and beyond housing for individuals without a disability. This discriminatory activity raises barriers for people in recovery to access the housing that many need to live happier, healthier lives. With limited resources to navigate the legal system, which can be stigmatizing unto itself, [recovery residence] providers are often bullied out of municipalities, leaving local people in recovery without an important resource.”

The primer identifies key advocacy areas that have been central to NARR’s agenda. Few barriers exist to establishing recovery residences, and in many areas of the country these residences have opened on a widespread basis. Some operate without standards or training, and state and local government agencies have been known to receive an unacceptably high volume of complaints from communities about overcrowding, unruly behavior and poorly maintained properties described as “recovery residences.”

The existence of these problem operations has fueled local neighborhood animosity. This can lead to calls for the total elimination of recovery residences from communities, or for their isolation in high-density and marginal residential areas. Government agencies, private organizations and others involved with addiction recovery services subsequently place low trust in the quality of services and support in recovery residences. This is understandable, particularly when problem operators conduct business in an unscrupulous fashion, perhaps bringing on negative media attention.

Heretofore, there has been a lack of measurable and enforceable standards against which to assess the operation of recovery residences. NARR addressed this deficit when it adopted a national Standard for Recovery Residences in 2011, providing a measurable baseline for operating residences in an ethical, accountable manner. NARR assists regions in establishing coalitions where none exist, and strengthens existing coalitions through implementation of a standard.

At the state and regional level, NARR works in conjunction with affiliated recovery residence organizations representing individual providers. Affiliates must demonstrate that the NARR standard is met through accreditation of providers, training and technical assistance.

A critical function of NARR is to serve as a national directory of recovery residences. NARR currently represents 14 associations in 14 states, plus one organization with national membership, the Association of Halfway House Alcoholism Programs (AHHAP). Another 10 states/regions have associations in early stages of development, with NARR providing support and technical assistance.

The primer notes that as of June 2012, NARR represented 1,949 residences (18 Level 1, 1,265 Level 2, 650 Level 3, and 16 Level 4), with an estimated total resident capacity of more than 25,500 persons in recovery.
The primer effectively and appropriately positions recovery residences as a vital component in the addiction services spectrum, and underscores the need for study in what can be characterized as an old practice and new profession. Current studies in addiction recovery services show that positive outcomes are strongly associated with the duration of recovery support—the longer an individual remains in a recovery support community or treatment environment, the greater are her/his chances for sustaining recovery.

Our field is experiencing radical change in response to these findings. Addiction recovery services overall are shifting from a short-term, acute care model to embracing sustained recovery management over extended time. Also, with implementation of the federal parity law and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there will be greater access to services through the healthcare system, longer-term monitoring and maintenance strategies, and efforts toward teaching and promoting self-care.

Recovery residences are perfectly suited to accommodate these changes. High-quality recovery residences provide a safe, healthy, cost-effective and community-based opportunity for facilitating recovery at all stages of the recovery process.

A PDF version of the new recovery residence primer can be accessed at www.narronline.org.

Beth Fisher, LCSW, LCAS, MAC, CCS is the current President of the National Association of Recovery Residences (NARR). She is also the Founder and Executive Director of Hope Homes, Inc. (www.hopehomesrecovery.org), a Level 3, supervised recovery residence organization with operations in Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., and Greenville, S.C. Her e-mail address is beth.fisher@hopehomesrecovery.org.

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