It’s What Home Should Feel Like
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The field of recovery services is undergoing a shift away from its traditional short-term, acute care model towards a model focused on sustained recovery. Recovery housing, an innovative approach to recovery, is gaining support and momentum on a national level due to its focus on empowering and supporting residents who live in sober communities of their own creation.
“People. Places. Things.”
Lori Criss, Associate Director of the Ohio Council of Behavioral Health & Family Services, explains why this phrase carries so much meaning in the recovery community: “Who we spend our time with, where we go, and the things we surround ourselves with all impact who we are and the decisions that we make. Many times, people in early recovery have to give up everything they’ve known… because those people, places, and things put them at risk for relapse or continued use. Early recovery can be painful and isolating. Recovery housing can fill that void with a safe place, compassionate people, and a life full of purpose and fun that doesn’t involve alcohol or drugs.”
Relapse can be common among individuals treated for substance use disorders. These high rates of relapse highlight the need for finding new ways to approach substance use treatment. This is where peer-run, recovery-oriented housing can fill a service gap. These homes offer safe, alcohol- and drug-free environments that afford individuals in recovery “with the opportunity to continually surround themselves with other people who are pursuing the same goal of recovery and wellness. It’s a place where people fit in, have common experiences and goals, and can be authentic without having to explain their addiction or recovery needs,” says Lori.
For people who are newly sober, recovery housing can provide time and support as they learn how to sustain long-term recovery. In fact, the recovery residence model is gaining momentum nationwide. In 2012, the National Association of Recovery Residences (NARR) published A Primer on Recovery Residences: FAQs from the National Association of Recovery Residences, a document developed in collaboration with leading researchers in the field of recovery housing. The Primer explains what recovery housing is, answers frequently asked questions about recovery residences, and highlights outcome studies for this growing movement.
Recovery homes are increasingly viewed as a viable and cost-effective alternative to established recovery-oriented systems of care. These homes are a good alternative because they provide safe and healthy environments that support residents in their recovery. These communities empower individuals by providing support as they transition towards living independent and productive lives in their respective communities. What makes recovery homes unique is they offer an alternative to harm reduction—a component of the Housing First model—for individuals whose main goal is to find a sober living environment.
Currently, the state of Ohio is interested in developing policy that would support the development of recovery homes statewide. “Safe and affordable housing is essential for all people.” Lori continues, “For a person disabled by the disease of addiction, residential stability is a critical part of recovery. Research indicates that the longer a person remains in an alcohol- and drug-free environment with support for recovery, the greater the chance of long-term sobriety, increased financial well-being, and overall stability.” Although many Ohio communities offer affordable housing options and addiction treatment services, rarely are these services coordinated in a meaningful way for a person in recovery. This lack of coordination leads many people in early recovery to return to environments that foster addictive lifestyles, increasing the likelihood of relapse or continued substance use. Lori explains how increasing “the availability of recovery housing ensures that Ohio’s system of care is responsive to various needs at different points in the recovery process.”
“Currently in Ohio, low-income persons primarily or solely disabled by substance use disorders have limited opportunities to secure safe, affordable housing that is anchored by a focus on treatment and recovery.” Because these individuals are not considered disabled by the Social Security Administration (SSA), they are not eligible for financial benefits such as Medicaid, vocational rehabilitation services, or HUD project-based Section 8 for disabled persons. “The need to broaden access to these programs is especially urgent in the context of the economic recession, with many non-Medicaid resources being cut at the state and local level.” Lori continues, “Unless a person with a primary substance use disorder also has a severe and persistent psychiatric disorder or disabling physical health condition, he or she will likely lack resources to pay for housing and treatment, creating significant barriers to recovery.”
For these reasons, Lori and her colleagues are advocating for private-public partnerships in the establishment of recovery homes. Once established, these homes will provide housing and services to low-income individuals primarily disabled by chronic substance abuse. “A responsive system will provide access to affordable, mainstream housing where people can be safely housed and supported in recovery at their own pace,” says Lori. The strength of recovery-focused housing is its ability to provide ongoing peer support while promoting sobriety in a natural home environment.
“It’s what home should feel like.”
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