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Steps taken toward establishing national association for recovery residences

November 11, 2010
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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An emphasis on quality of services would be at the heart of the group’s efforts

Since late October, recovery home leaders from three states have conducted phone meetings in the hope of fueling development of a national association that would encourage core standards of quality for sober residences. A group coordinator says it is time for leaders involved with an increasingly significant component of the addiction treatment continuum to counteract the low expectations many have about the quality of the recovery residences that house many clients post-treatment.

“Our particular niche has a bad reputation, and quite honestly in many cases it’s been earned,” says Beth Fisher, president of the Georgia Association of Recovery Residences (GARR). “There are flophouses out there. And there are other people with very good intentions who are just in over their head. They do not have the best of support.”

Fisher’s association in Georgia does not merely represent recovery homes in the state, but also serves as an accrediting organization for residences committed to professional standards of operation. She and the leaders of state associations of recovery homes in Michigan and Connecticut have held two conference calls to discuss formation of a national association that they would like to see in place in 2011.

“The big thing that we’re all very passionate about is working collectively to ensure quality recovery residence programs,” Fisher says. Among other possible goals of a national association, the core organizers have listed:

• Defining professional levels of care for recovery residences, leading to a common language in a field where it seems every sober residence calls itself something different and defines its services differently.

• Serving as an information clearinghouse, thus providing training and support for new entrants to the industry.

• Becoming an advocacy voice for a cost-effective, outcome-driven element of care.

Fisher says she could envision a national association being structured in a manner similar to that of NAADAC, The Association for Addiction Professionals, which has a number of affiliated state-based groups. She estimates that about 15 to 20 states currently have associations representing recovery homes, though that is something of a guess because no one ever has taken a formal inventory.

In the states involved in the early discussions on establishing a national voice, “We all agree that we have benefited greatly from supporting each other,” Fisher says. “It has given us a level of professional accountability.”

In the cover story published in the May/June 2010 issue of Addiction Professional, Fisher outlined the activities of her group in Georgia and their effect of elevating a profession that often has faced criticism for a lack of professionalism and lax standards.

Fisher expects that planners in the next several months will work together on an organizational mission statement and business plan. She hopes a newly formed national association could conduct its first formal meeting around the time of Recovery Month next September.

For more information about the effort to form a national association for recovery residences, contact Fisher at (404) 558-1485 or Fisher and her colleagues are seeking feedback from organizations that would like to be involved in forming a national association. They also are trying to get a better handle on how many groups currently are out there representing recovery homes in the states.