Between blogs, there has been period of thinking and searching for an idea or a prompt for a subject of interest or at least one worthy of attention. This time it came from reading about the annual world convention of Oxford House August 2017, in Washington, D.C. I first became aware of Oxford house early in my tenure as board chair of Faces and Voices of Recovery. Oxford House™ was born in 1975 when thirteen men living in a county-run halfway house that was closing needed a safe living place to continue their recovery. It has continually focused on providing opportunity for long-term recovery. From it’s beginning, Oxford House™ has drawn on three legacies inherent in American history: individual liberty, participatory democracy, and entrepreneurial freedom. This focus has paid off. Today, there is a national network of 2,200 Oxford Houses (17,490 beds) with continued expansion and recovery outcomes second to none. Sober living is essential but recovery living for the long term is the goal. We are pleased to have several Oxford Houses on the front range of the Rockies. Available are housing, help, hope—and healing.
I discovered an article in the Washington Post Magazine, dated November 1989. It was titled: The Oxford House Experience and the opening paragraph reads: Roommates Wanted: To live in a group house in a good neighborhood. Must be recovering addicts or alcoholics wiling to work hard, pay their own way—and help each other stay clean. It tells the story of the beginning of Oxford House and the struggle to establish group homes in “good” neighborhoods—or any neighborhoods for that matter. The attitude about NIMBY (not in my backyard) was dramatically apparent. Even Mr Rogers may have hesitated. Finally, help was on the way. The 1995 Supreme Court case, City of Edmonds, WA v. Oxford House, Inc. established that Oxford House residents are a protected class under the Federal Fair Housing Act and entitled to accommodation with respect to locating Oxford Houses in areas zoned for single families. This Act has and can have broad implications in dealing with NIMBY activity.
In the early 90’s, after retiring from corporate life, I became acquainted with Nancy Clark’s Alternative Sentencing Program (ASP) in Orange County, California. Nancy was a pioneer in offering this program to the justice system, and she and ASP were recognized, respected, and utilized by those in the justice system and that remains so today. I served 90 days as a resident and was a peer with lived experience. I bought into the program and the promise of wellbeing for others and myself, and remained associated as administrator for a number of years. Our Recovery Centers housed dozens of residents in shared apartments with limited freedom. They could to work, go to school or enjoy fun, fellowship, wit, and wisdom in mandatory meetings. Subject to testing, no alcohol or other drug use was permitted. Outside smoking was allowed. Docile about no drinking, they would commit mayhem for a cigarette. Residents paid fees, learned responsibility, accountability, and the worth of freedom. Though NIMBY attitudes existed, these residents were part of a quiet, civil, community. Many were involved in community service. Our role in the justice system was to provide a safe environment, education, supervision, and reporting. The social and economic value to the County was significant in face of the costs of incarceration. We provided reason and resource to reduce recidivism.
During this time, drug courts were beginning to be established. Our drug court was a mutual resource and benefit to our program and several of our residents. I appreciated drug court graduations. There were no caps and gowns just claps and grins. Today drug courts are made up of judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, community corrections, social workers, and treatment service professionals. There is focus on the family and their health and welfare. As of June 2015, the estimated number of drug courts operating in the U.S. was over 3,000. That number is substantially larger today.
The history I have related is relevant today as we build recovery ready communities. As we work to provide housing and recovery support services for recovering persons, we need to change language and attitudes. A section of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, (CARA2.0) indicates funds may be used on to conduct public education and outreach on issues related to substance use disorders (SUD) and recovery and reduce the stigma associated with SUD. Funds may be used to build connections between recovery support services and networks, including treatment programs, mental health providers, treatment systems, and other recovery supports. Grants to recovery community organizations to enable such organizations to develop, expand, and enhance recovery services are available. Recovery community organizations can mobilize resources within and outside the recovery community to increase long-term recovery. They should be wholly or principally governed by people in recovery who reflect the community served.” Under the Act there is a National Youth Recovery Initiative: Funds may be used to develop, support, and maintain youth recovery support services, including maintaining a physical space for activities, staff, social activities—and to establish recovery high schools. Initiatives should be coordinated with other social service providers (mental health, primary care, criminal justice, substance use disorder treatment programs, housing, child welfare, and more. It will support development of peer support programs, and other activities that help youth and young adults achieve recovery from substance use disorders.
The recognition of the need for funding is evident but the stated recognition of the comprehensive needs out lined in CARA 2.0 is also very important. Recovery community organizations have opportunities along with the need to be aware, wary, and wise in determining means and motivation of those who will serve. Politics and recovery are local. Lets roll.