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National recovery home group formally adopts code of ethics

August 30, 2016
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Leaders in the National Alliance for Recovery Residences (NARR) have officially approved a code of ethics for the organization, a set of 20 principles for resident-focused operation of sober homes. Recovery residence operators and staff who are subject to the code will work through NARR's state-based affiliates to report any unethical practices they encounter, according to the national organization.

A member of the NARR committee that worked on the standards tells Addiction Professional that the general principles articulated in the ethics code coordinate with the specific operational standards for sober homes that NARR has promulgated for the field since 2011. Ron Luce, executive director of the 11-bed John W. Clem Recovery House in Athens, Ohio, says NARR is now reviewing each individual standard in that set to determine what a recovery home specifically should demonstrate in order to document that it is meeting each standard.

With too many recovery home operators not doing business ethically, Luce believes that “if we don't come up with a commitment to standards, the states and the federal goverment will begin to dictate what the standards are, and then nobody will be happy.”

Key principles

Some of the potentially most impactful components of the NARR ethics code state that recovery residence operators and staff should:

  • “Assess each potential resident's needs, and determine whether the level of support available within the residence is appropriate. Provide assistance to the resident for referral in or outside of the residence.”

  • “Honor individuals' rights to choose their recovery paths within the parameters defined by the residence organization.”

  • “Encourage residents to sustain relationships with professionals, recovery support service providers and allies.”

  • “Provide consistent, fair practices for drug testing that promote the residents' recovery and the health and safety of the recovery environment and protect the privacy of resident information.”

  • “Operate within the residence's scope of service and within professional training and credentials.”

  • “Maintain an environment that promtes the peace and safety of the surrounding neighborhood and the communuty at large.”

The association emphasizes that the code applies to all NARR affiliate organizations and to all of their owners, operators, staff and volunteers. In Luce's organization, that means that a staff of five for the men's Level 2 residence will be asked to abide by these principles.

Articulating what he sees as the larger mission of operations such as his, Luce says, “We want to be a critical part of the continuum of care for the people who put their trust in us.”

He adds that in areas such as drug testing, the code stops short of dictating specific protocols for testing frequency. “We don't want to dictate,” he says. However, he adds, “This should never be simply a way to make money. I think we all know when it's being done in a way that's appropriate.”

In a blog written for Addiction Professional in June, Hope Homes Inc. CEO and former NARR president Beth Sanders stated that a national code of ethics for the recovery residence cvommunity was needed amid past problems that have included exclusive arrangements with referral sources, resident discharges without a follow-up plan in place, and improper offers of free rent to individuals in outpatient treatment.  

NARR summit

Leaders of NARR will gather in Boston Oct. 17-18 to hear presentations on, and to discuss, best practices in the industry. Some of the topics to be addressed will include housing rights, risk management and the nurturing of strong referral relationships.

Speakers at the 2016 Best Practices Summit, to be held at the Hilton Boston Back Bay, will include prominent researcher John Kelly, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (SAMHSA) senior advisor Tom Hill, formerly of Faces & Voices of Recovery; and fair housing attorney Steve Polin.