Recovery support leaders want share of funding pie | Addiction Professional Magazine Skip to content Skip to navigation

Recovery support leaders want share of funding pie

October 26, 2016
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
| Reprints

Leaders who have pioneered innovative recovery support services emphasized to congressional staffers this week that a failure to distinguish between recovery and treatment services leaves recovery support organizations largely out of the federal funding equation.

Two of the panelists at an Oct. 24 briefing co-sponsored by the Addiction Policy Forum tell Addiction Professional that the first-of-its-kind event on Capitol Hill sought to elevate recovery support as a critical component in fighting the opioid crisis. They say it now rests at the bottom of the totem pole for federal funding.

“We believe peer recovery support services are the missing piece to the puzzle,” says Rich Jones, executive director of Faces & Voices of Recovery's Greenville, S.C., operation.

“There is a real issue around treatment engagement, because many people do not believe they need the services,” Jones adds. “We are very good at working with people who aren't necessarily willing to jump into traditional services.”

Adds Patty McCarthy Metcalf, Faces & Voices national executive director, “In Congress, they think recovery is the same as treatment. They don't know of these services.”

As a result, while the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) that was adopted this year authorizes federal grant initiatives in areas such as expanded medication-assisted treatment, care for pregnant women, and wider access to the overdose reversal drug naloxone, recovery support services have little presence in the legislation.

“We expect that with appropriations for CARA, there may be an opportunity for moving funds around,” Metcalf says.

Recovery support innovators

Panelists at this week's briefing, which was also co-sponsored by Faces & Voices and the National Criminal Justice Association, represented a diversity of recovery support initiatives at the state and local level. Speakers included:

  • Scott Strode, national executive director of Phoenix Multisport, which has created local recovery communities based around physical fitness activity.

  • Michelle Harter, manager of the Anchor Recovery community center's initiative to place peer support workers in every hospital emergency room in Rhode Island.

  • John Shinholser, president of the McShin Foundation, which has established model recovery support efforts in criminal justice settings.

Jones' organization in South Carolina takes a family-focused approach to engaging individuals in recovery support. “If you start with the family, very often the loved one with addiction will follow,” he says.

Families have numerous access points to Faces & Voices Greenville's services, including parent recovery groups that attract more than 50 parents a week. The approach with families de-emphasizes blaming, Jones explains.

“We try to avoid using terms such as 'tough love'—that scares families away,” he says. “If someone walks away from our center, we see it as our fault, not their fault.”

Funding shift

Jones says that because the treatment infrastructure is so much more recognizable to policy leaders, much of the recovery community's effort to get CARA passed will end up benefiting treatment and not recovery support. In looking at the efforts of his fellow panelists, “The common theme is that we all had to beg, borrow and steal to find a way to pay for it.”

In order for recovery support to receive a reasonable share of public funding, Jones says, “Somebody's going to have to give up a piece of the pie.” He adds, “In South Carolina, we'd like 20% of the block grant to go to recovery, just like [the block grant set-aside] for prevention.”



Bravo...educating policy makers about the distinction between acute treatment and recovery support services is critical to creating sustainable funding for recovery support in our nation's communities..

These efforts must also extend to educating our brothers and sisters within the alcohol and drug services sector about this distinction. Here in California speaking about recovery support services often elicits blank stares until one clarifies how RSSs are NOT treatment.

Although only relatively small numbers of people in recovery actually come through the treatment door (I've heard 1 in 5), our thinking regularly defalts to a belief that "It's all about treatment" rather than "It's all about long term recovery".

That said, however, changes in attitudes rarely occur spontaneously. Our field would be well-served if national leadership organizations would take up the task of educating our professionals, and for that metter, the general public about the importance of recovery supports.

I think that we have reached a point where the distinction between "treatment" and "recovery" is harmful. I've been working in "treatment" for more than 30 years. Fairly recently I've been shocked to learn that a good number of people believe that what I've been doing has nothing to do with "recovery." The distinction is becoming even more blurry since people doing "treatment" are evolving toward a 5 year model (see "The advantages of long-term monitoring"
July 15, 2011 by Gregory E. Skipper, MD and Robert L. Dupont in Addiction Professional), When does treatment end and recovery begin?
It seems that the people hurt most by the distinction are those providing "recovery services." I've viewed recovery services to be a vital part of the treatment continuum. Without these services many people would not remain abstinent. So why is there not a continuum? Recovery services should be funded. If a continuum existed they are more likely to be funded.

I worked at a treatment center in Northern New Hampshire from 1992-2006. Others before me worked at a grass roots attempt to provide services in the Great North Woods in NH. It was there that I learned that treatment and long term recovery had little impact on the so called success of recovering people unless they became dedicated, active members of a fellowship group in their area. Fellowship groups (AA, NA, CA and so on) are full of people helping people in order to stay sober themselves. They fill up by the law of attraction, not promotion. They continue by the practice of ancient principles that do not include payment for services rendered. Treatment no longer teaches these ancient principles, and maybe they shouldn't. Treatment gets people ready for a lifetime of commitment to service of others. Anonymous Fellowships are daily demonstrating those principles. You cannot put a price tag on them. Each treatment individual must decide what their lifestyle without substances will look like and what support they need from what group. A tall order, but necessary.