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“Some of us tried to hold on to our old ideas…”

One “old idea” is that halfway houses, sober homes and recovery residences are the same thing; that it’s just a matter of semantics. Not true and this old idea lies at the root of many challenges faced by the recovery community, particularly in Southeast Florida.

FARR is now in collaboration with a true ‘halfway house’ located in central Florida, The Transition House, to expand our support for recovery housing operators who formally serve populations under the supervision of the Florida Department of Corrections. These programs have a concrete set of standards, policies and procedures that differ, in part, from programs who serve persons who have voluntarily chosen to reside in recovery-oriented housing communities. Still; both groups meet the definition of a Recovery Residence.

Another “old idea” is that there is a clear, bright line separating “Clinical SUT providers” and ‘Recovery-Oriented Housing’ providers. This old idea causes much confusion, even within the recovery community. The “Florida Model”, which has been adopted in many other regions of the country, is based on blending certain elements of clinical substance use disorder treatment (The Medical Model) into a well-defined recipe for the delivery of peer-supportive, recovery-oriented housing (The Social Model). In this instance; a FARR Level 4 Recovery Residence is both a DCF licensed Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) with day/night community housing that has been certified to comply with FARR Standards and the FARR Code of Ethics. DCF is the licensing authority responsible for oversight of compliance with clinical criteria and FARR certifies that the peer supportive housing component complies with nationally recognized standards. Clients of a Florida Model program attend treatment (clinical services) at a properly zoned, commercial location during daytime hours and return to a residence during evening and weekend hours to engage in peer-supportive activities designed to further develop their recovery capital. All Florida Model programs qualify to apply for certification as FARR Level 4 Recovery Residences.

Yet another “old idea” that particularly plagues the Southeast Florida corridor is the relationship between Recovery-Oriented Housing and Intensive Outpatient (IOP) clinical service providers. A number of associated factors contribute to industry-wide confusion regarding what is and is not legal as well as what is and is not in the best interest of the population served by both providers. While this blog is not an appropriate forum to drill down into the nitty-gritty, it does provide an opportunity to present a high level view to focus further discussion. Some of the key challenges we face:

  • The term “outpatient” refers to the practice where-in a client resides in their own home and elects to attend a clinical treatment program, generally near their home, for a specified set of weekly commitments for both group and individual therapy.
  • Due to the fact that Southeast Florida is a “recovery destination” for thousands of individuals visiting from other states (and countries) who participate in outpatient programs located here, these persons are obligated to secure housing for the duration of their stay.
  • Therefore, a majority of these individuals seek to secure residence in recovery-oriented housing while enrolled in an IOP program.
  • Primarily due to commerce-related considerations, this has led to questionable practices where-in DCF licensed IOP programs regularly offer potential clients certain inducements such as “free rent”, “free grocery cards”, “free cell phones” and other incentives to entice enrollment in their IOP program over a competitor.
  • This challenge is a big deal; it impacts all sectors within the space. The litany of troubling problems originating from this single bad practice is substantial and threatens to undermine the quality of services offered by entire continuum of care throughout South Florida. The SUT and Recovery Support Service sectors must actively collaborate to effectively resolve this issue.

For the last year, in nearly every conversation I have had with both the management and the clinical staff of SUT and Recovery Residence providers throughout Florida, this question emerges as a high-level priority: “How can ethical operators compete with free?”

FARR will soon publish an Advisory Bulletin to better clarify our position on this issue. We seek the support of quality, ethical operators who are equally concerned regarding the direction our industry has taken and are committed to righting its course in order that, collectively, we might better serve the needs of persons genuinely seeking to right the course of their lives. I remain convinced that the majority of our service providers are first motivated to help their clients achieve and sustain recovery, and that, armed with the facts, they will voluntarily make their way to higher ground.