FARR is opposed to legislative efforts to regulate recovery residences. That much is clear. What is not immediately evident to those who are first exposed to FARR is what actions we favor and support. Here’s a high-level snapshot of the TOP FIVE recommended actions which we believe would benefit those in early recovery from addiction, the service providers who support them and the Florida communities they call home:
- Discharge planners, therapists and counselors within the private substance abuse treatment community should follow a responsible course of action when making referrals to a recovery residence as a component in the individual client’s continuum of care. Their organization should conduct its own comprehensive review of the policies & procedures, house rules & consequences, general liability insurance coverage and other standards related to levels of support or they should require that the service provider secure an independent, third party certification from an affiliate of the National Alliance of Recovery Residences.
- Evidence-based, long term studies are long overdue. These initiatives will likely require funding by the public sector. We recommend anyone interested in learning more about this need first read William White’s recent publication entitled “The Role of Recovery Residences in Promoting Long-term Addiction Recovery”. – Jason, L.A., Mericle, A.A., Polcin, D.L., & White, W.L. (in press, 2013). The Role of Recovery Residences in Promoting Long-term Addiction Recovery. American Journal of Community Psychology.
- The development of a specific Certification Curriculum for recovery residence owner/operators. This role is both vital and unique from other professional functions within the continuum of care. The owner/operator of a recovery residence has the opportunity to influence, mentor and support persons seeking recovery from addiction for an extended period of time. As is true of peer support, this role has a profound impact, positive or negative, on nurturing the seeds planted during primary care. Yet the function has no formal training nor has a curriculum been developed to educate these operators regarding best practices. FARR strongly supports implementation of a curriculum designed specifically for this sector under the purview of an agency such as the Florida Certification Board.
- Among those best practices, one stands out as paramount as it serves both residents and the communities in which recovery residences and situated: Safe Discharge Protocols. FARR offers concrete suggestions on this topic and some of those suggestions, if acted upon, will require state and local government support as well as buy-in from FARR Certified Residences and our Partners in Excellence (treatment community) who refer clients to our members. We will publish a separate post on this initiative shortly. In the interim, we can begin the dialog regarding how best to honor the standards which demand a certified residence maintain an alcohol & drug-free environment and also implement measures to protect the resident who must be discharged due to a return to active drug or alcohol use.
- Discharge planners, family members seeking the appropriate home for their loved one and particularly, future residents themselves must have access to education regarding the distinct levels of support that are generally lumped together under the monikers “Recovery Residence”, “Sober Home”, Sober Living” or “Halfway House”. This is vitally important as far too often the selection a recovery residence is based on criteria that conflicts with the intended purpose. The National Alliance of Recovery Residences has identified the minimum criteria associated with four distinct levels of support. One is not natively “better” than the other; but different and more appropriate for certain population demographics and individual support requirements. Referring a 23 year old female who is entering recovery for the first time and who has just completed four weeks of residential care in a highly-structured treatment program to a level 2 recovery residence is not ideal. The support she would receive in a well-structured level three or four recovery residence is far more appropriate. Conversely, a 50 year old male who relapsed after previously sustaining ten years of sobriety while actively engaged in a 12 step support community for eight of those ten years, is probably more suited for a Level 1 or 2 residence. In this instance, the intensity and monitoring present in a level 3 residence would likely cause this individual to abandon his commitment to peer supportive housing altogether. The challenge is in developing an infrastructure that continues to educate these stakeholders and provides guidance to help them on how to select the appropriate level of support for the individual. Government agencies can help with this and should be encouraged to do so. However, closer to home, this effort must first be undertaken by the FARR Outreach Committee with support from the substance abuse treatment community who participate in our Partner in Excellence program. We need to get on the same page to save more lives. I recently spent time with a grieving mother whose son expressed a need for a higher level of support and tragically, he passed away before they found a channel that could help them discern the distinct differences in support available through the FARR Certification process. Sad as this is, it propels us into action. We need to get ‘the word’ out where it can do the most good.
When we speak of collaboration as a pathway to achieving goals we all agree upon, these are some of the core initiatives for which we seek support. Legislators and local governments would be well served to include FARR in their planning as it regards recovery residences. The Florida League of Cities is a good place to begin this interaction.