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.”
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.”