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Stephanie Pellitt

, National Council for Behavioral Health

National Council Releases First-Ever Recovery Housing Guide for States

April 27, 2018 | Addictions | Comments
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On Monday, April 23, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing published the first-ever policy guide for expanding quality recovery housing entitled Building Recovery: State Policy Guide for Supporting Recovery Housing. It calls on states to adopt recovery housing quality standards, establish a certification program and support recovery residences as they work to meet nationally-recognized standards. In the guide, the National Council recommends concrete policies and practices that policymakers can enact to strengthen the road to recovery from addiction.

Why Recovery Housing?

To address the addiction crisis, communities are increasingly turning to recovery housing to help individuals with addiction achieve and sustain a life in recovery. Recovery housing refers to safe, healthy, alcohol and drug-free living environments that support individuals in recovery from addiction. Recovery from addiction is a lifelong process, but for many people with SUDs, short-term intensive treatment is the only support they will receive. Speaking at a recovery housing workshop at NatCon18, the National Council’s annual conference, Matt Boggs, owner of Recovery Point in West Virginia, explained his personal journey with recovery housing, “It wasn’t until I added recovery housing to my recovery plan post-treatment that I was able to be successful in the long-term.”

Evidence shows that recovery residences are instrumental in demonstrating recovery outcomes and breaking the cycle of relapse, treatment and incarceration. Despite this, recovery homes are often under-resourced and excluded from public sector policies and resources.

Why Standards?

The historic lack of codified recovery housing standards has led to inconsistencies in the quality of recovery housing, including substandard housing, insurance schemes and exploitative operators. These bad actors risk harming the reputation and needed investment in the vast majority of high quality, effective recovery housing throughout the United States. However, in 2011, the National Alliance for Recovery Residences (NARR) developed an extensive set of quality standards to ensure that best practices are followed when operating a recovery residence.

The NARR quality standards provide metrics for evaluating a recovery home’s peer support component, governance, ethical and safe operation, physical property and good neighbor policy. NARR certification brings legitimacy to an industry that has long operated outside of the mainstream. Speaking as public funder of recovery housing at NatCon18, Vatreisha Nyemba of the Cleveland-area Cuyahoga Land Bank shared that “the NARR standards were everything for us” as the agency decided where to direct its investment in recovery housing.

Model State Law

Drawing from legislative language from Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, the National Council compiled sample legislation to create the first “model” law on recovery housing. The model statute recommends state law or regulation on recovery housing include the following:

  • A clear definition of recovery housing that includes the core functions of recovery housing and references nationally recognized standards such as NARR and Oxford House.
  • Enforcement of recovery housing quality standards by making the receipt of referrals and/or state and local funds dependent upon meeting recovery housing quality standards.
  • Support a NARR affiliate organization to operationalize the recovery housing quality certification process.
  • Make data collection requirements part of the certification process.
  • Include recovery housing as a highlighted element of the continuum of care for individuals with addiction in every local community.
  • Make a regularly updated registry of NARR-certified recovery housing and Oxford Houses available to the public.
  • Allocation of resources to cover ongoing recovery housing costs and to support recovery homes’ efforts to meet NARR standards or apply to become Oxford homes as well as training and technical assistance for recovery housing operators.

The toolkit further provides specific legislative language to support these recommendations and includes a matrix of current and pending recovery housing laws, a recovery housing fact sheet and brief recovery housing action assessment for states.

Building Recovery: State Policy Guide for Supporting Recovery Housing is available free-of-charge online.