Congressional Briefing Highlights Value of Recovery Housing
On Thursday, the National Council partnered with Facing Addiction to host a Capitol Hill briefing on the effectiveness, challenges, and opportunities of recovery housing. The hearing featured testimony from Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act sponsors Sens. Portman (R-OH) and Whitehouse (D-RI), recovery housing operators, policy and legal experts, as well as personal stories from former recovery housing residents. The hearing focused on the integral role recovery housing plays in helping individuals achieve long-term recovery from drug and alcohol addiction and demonstrated the need for Congress to provide greater support for recovery housing.
Senators Rob Portman and Sheldon Whitehouse opened the briefing by thanking advocates for their work in the passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), the first major piece of federal legislation to acknowledge recovery support services, which includes recovery housing. The Senators encouraged recovery housing advocates to ask their elected officials for more funding for CARA’s grant programs and to take advantage of the $500 million for opioid funding approved in last year’s 21st Century Cures Act.
Recovery Housing Definition and Evidence
Jason Howell, former President of the National Alliance for Recovery Residences, began a panel discussion by explaining that recovery housing refers to living environments that are free from alcohol and illicit drug use and centered on peer support and connection to services that promote sustained recovery. According to Howell, recovery homes are where people with a history of addiction “learn to live recovery.” Kathleen Gibson of Oxford House presented evidence showing recovery housing as highly successful in improving residents’ long-term abstinence from drugs and alcohol, income and education levels, and reducing involvement with the criminal justice system.
Challenges and Opportunities
Recovery housing operators struggle to access existing affordable housing resources, explained Lori Criss of the Ohio Council of Behavioral Health and Family Services Providers. Criss commented that this struggle makes it a challenge to expand the availability of recovery housing nationwide. As a result, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) have the opportunity to increase access to recovery housing by investing more resources and establishing the role of recovery housing in local housing continuums. Criss noted that efforts are underway to promote greater quality in recovery housing with the development of quality standards set by the National Alliance on Recovery Residences (NARR).
Stories of Recovery
Following the panel discussion, Ralph Ragland from North Carolina and Gina Bonominio from Ohio shared their personal stories of how recovery housing helped to transform their lives. Ragland explained that after completing addiction treatment, he feared returning to his previous living environment where there was active drug and alcohol use. In order to continue his recovery, he moved into a recovery home where he stayed for 11 months. Gina, who moved into a recovery home in the Cleveland area post-treatment, credits her experience with recovery housing as teaching her how to form healthy relationships and important life skills. Both Ralph and Gina now work to help others with addiction achieve and maintain recovery.
A video recording of the event can be found on Facing Addiction’s Facebook page here.