Recovery Housing, Peer Recovery Supports Are Crucial Components to Maintaining Recovery 

March 17, 2020

Altarum's Elizabeth Burden, the McShin Foundation's Honesty Liller, and the National Alliance of Recovery Residences' David Sheridan at the 2020 COAP National Forum.Altarum's Elizabeth Burden (far right) moderates a discussion on the importance of recovery housing with Honesty Liller, CEO of the McShin Foundation, and Dave Sheridan, Executive Director of the National Alliance of Recovery Residences.

While clinical services like inpatient care and medication-assisted treatment are important for persons with substance use disorders, they aren’t always enough to establish a life in recovery. Recovery housing, and the peer-to-peer support provided in this environment, can play a major part in helping someone effectively address substance misuse.

In an interactive session at the 2020 COAP National Forum, moderated by Altarum’s Elizabeth Burden, two experts discussed the current landscape of recovery housing, the importance of this component of a recovery-oriented system of care, and how jurisdictions and criminal justice sectors (such as law enforcement, courts, probation and parole) can form partnerships with peer-based housing operators.

As Dave Sheridan, Executive Director of the National Alliance of Recovery Residences (NARR) and a person in long-term recovery explained, “When we decide to break the pattern of addiction, we need something to help us live without our drugs, not just clinical services….[W]ithout recovery housing, it would be basically impossible for our addiction services to work.”

Beyond providing safe and stable housing, recovery residences provide an opportunity for individuals to learn how to live in a community and how to rebuild their life with others through peer-based recovery support. They also offer linkages to services and resources to help persons in early recovery address unmet needs. For criminal justice-involved individuals this comprehensive approach can be a game changer.

Honesty Liller, CEO of the McShin Foundation, a Recovery Community Organization in Virginia, is someone who knows firsthand how the social model used in recovery residences, with peers at its center, can change lives. “I wouldn’t have the life I have today if I didn’t have the McShin Foundation and recovery housing,” said Liller. “Recovery is more than just not using drugs and alcohol. McShin and the women who went before me taught me how to be a mom, a woman, and in recovery.”

Both Sheridan and Liller agreed on the importance of recovery housing and authentic peer-to-peer connection. They also agreed that developing partnerships with recovery residences can be difficult for jurisdictions due to stigma and funding. To compound the problem, most states do not have minimum standards for recovery housing. The experts provided some suggestions for participants to build collaborative relationships and partnerships with reputable recovery residences in their communities:

  • Get to know the available residences. Find the programs and providers that are going to help individuals take the next step, not just make it easier for probation and parole officers. It’s important that the facility is meeting individuals’ needs, rather than just looking to puts “heads in beds.”
  • Go look at the facilities yourself. Consider credentials, but remember they aren’t everything. Receiving certification can be challenging, and it is not available in every state. There are many wonderful recovery residences that meet NARR standards, but have not gone through the process.
  • Insist on standards of quality and care in four areas: basic health and safety, financial accountability and disclosure, nurturing of peer-to-peer support, and good neighbor policies.

Other suggestions included: applying for training and technical assistance to more easily integrate peer recovery supports; looking into non-traditional funding sources (such as HUD rural housing funding) that might be used to support individuals with opioid use disorders; and, adapting what’s working to address housing needs in other populations (like persons with HIV).

Learn more about the Bureau of Justice Assistance's Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Abuse Program (formerly the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Program) and how to obtain technical assistance from Altarum.

Altarum is a nonprofit organization that works with federal and state agencies and foundations to design and implement solutions to improve the health of individuals with fewer financial resources and populations disenfranchised by the health care system. We achieve measurable results by combining our expertise in public health and health care delivery with technology, workforce training and continuing education, applied research, and technical assistance. Our innovative solutions lead to better health for beneficiaries and better value for payers.