RCO Best Practices

RCO Best Practices

RCO Definition

A recovery community organization (RCO) is an independent, non-profit organization led and governed by representatives of local communities of recovery.

These organizations

  • organize recovery-focused policy advocacy activities,
  • carry out recovery-focused community education and outreach programs, and/or
  • provide peer-based recovery support services (P-BRSS).

8 Criteria for RCO's

To ensure fidelity to the RCO model, Faces & Voices of Recovery has identified the following criteria as national best practices for recovery community organizations.

1. Non-profit Organization

The organization is a non-profit with current 501c3 status. (In some cases, the RCO is under the umbrella of a parent organization. These RCOs have a governing structure that is sufficiently independent from the parent organization to be autonomous in their authority and decision-making.) 

2. Led and Governed by the Recovery Community

The organization is peer-led. More than 50% of the Board of Directors self-identify as people in recovery from their own substance use disorders. 

3. Primary Focus is Recovery from Substance Use Disorders

The organization’s mission and vision include a primary focus on recovery from substance use disorders. Some organizations also provide ancillary activities such as prevention services, housing, other addictions and/or  mental health peer services.  However, the primary function of an RCO is focused on substance use disorders.

4. Grassroots

Community engagement is grassroots and reflective of the community served. The organization provides opportunities for all community members to get involved in volunteering, participating in activities, and planning events and programs. Examples of ways to engage local communities of recovery are visible on the website and evident in program delivery. 

5. Participatory Process

Participatory process is understood, valued and evident in the design and implementation of outreach, programs and services. Participatory Processes (PP) are specific methods employed to achieve active participation by all members of a group in a decision making process.

6. Non-clinical Services

Services provided are 100% non-clinical.  Examples of clinical services include DUI assessments, counseling, drug testing and medication management. Examples of non-clinical services include, but are not limited to, recovery support groups, recovery coaching, telephone recovery support, skill-building groups, public awareness events, harm-reduction activities, substance-free recreation, and recovery celebrations. 

7. All Pathways of Recovery

The organization supports, allows for, and may provide opportunities for all pathways of recovery and does not exclude anyone based on their pathway. This includes support for strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use.

8. Recovery-Friendly Language

Words matter and working to change the language around substance use disorders may help individuals identify less with negative terms and more with neutral terms around substance use. Caution needs to be taken when designing RCO websites and materials. Every effort should be made to refrain from using stigmatizing words such as "addict." Recommended replacements are "person with a substance use disorder" or "person in recovery".