September 19, 2012 by Gary A. Enos, Editor
The movement to establish national standards of operation and a unified presence for recovery residences continues to gain steam, with the National Association of Recovery Residences (NARR) marking several developments in the days leading up to what promises to be a prominent showing for the group at this month’s National Conference on Addiction Disorders (NCAD).
NARR president Beth Fisher says state-based coalitions of recovery residences are now either members of NARR or moving in that direction in exactly half of the states in the country. (NARR is a partner in the NCAD meeting, to be held Sept. 28-Oct. 2 in Orlando, Fla., and the association will hold a reception on Oct. 1 at 6 p.m. for conference attendees.)
In what arguably is even a more significant development signaling NARR’s growth potential, the association that served as the original national coalition for sober residences is planning to dissolve operations next month, with some of its members already having boosted NARR’s membership. Efforts of the Association of Halfway House Alcoholism Programs of North America (AHHAP) date to the 1950s, although the group was not formally chartered until the mid-1960s.
“These were the pioneers of recovery services and the social model,” Fisher says of AHHAP’s originators. “A lot of these places were [small] organizations with one, two or three houses. They were the first to talk about having standards.”
Susan O. Binns, executive clinical director of the Nashville, Tenn.-based women’s recovery program YANA (You Are Not Alone) and a longtime leader in AHHAP, explains that the association and the recovery home movement in general grew out of AA traditions. The reasoning was that if one addict supporting another addict could succeed, wouldn’t the concept of addicts living together in early recovery strengthen that even further?
With limited resources and no one with previous experience to fall back on, the pioneering members of AHHAP grew the organization but also grappled with conflicts as the developing field began to examine the extent to which these homes should incorporate services beyond peer-based support. AHHAP’s activity peaked more than a generation ago, although Binns say the group still was hosting annual conferences until just a couple of years ago.
NARR is developing under a somewhat different structure, as its membership is based in state associations of recovery residences as opposed to individual facilities as was the case with AHHAP. NARR has promulgated levels of care that arrange in an intuitive format the varying degrees of intensity in the services offered by recovery homes. These efforts are intended to emphasize standards and accountability in a largely unregulated field where high-quality providers are often scarred by reports of abuses in poorly managed homes.
As a priority in 2013, “We’re working on a levels presentation designed for use by people who would refer to us,” says Fisher, who is also executive director of Hope Homes, Inc., which operates in three Southeast states.
Binns sees this move toward standardization of recovery residences’ operations as “very, very necessary,” adding, “This industry has changed so much, and we’re in trouble if we don’t get some accountability and legitimacy.”
NARR was instrumental in the design of a recovery track at this year’s NCAD meeting, focusing on content related to post-treatment support and other recovery-focused initiatives. For more information about the conference, visit www.nationalconferenceonaddictiondisorders.com. Conference attendees are invited to share their knowledge from the meeting via Twitter by using the conference hashtag #NCAD.