MISSOULA — For those in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, a safe environment can make or break their recovery, and recent legislation addresses that.
This year, the Montana legislature voted in favor of Senate Bill 94, which outlines certain requirements and standards for recovery homes in an attempt to protect residents. The bill will be rolled into effect on Oct. 1.
SB 94 provides requirements for recovery residences and prohibits certain practices, such as bribery and misinformation. It will also create a full registry of recovery residences in Montana.
While the bill does not require certification of recovery homes under the National Alliance of Recovery Residences (NARR) set of standards, it does provide an incentive for certification.
If organizations aren't certified, they are not able to access funds or rental vouchers from the Montana Department of Corrections for people transitioning out of incarceration.
The NARR set of standards includes 31 steps and is assessed through multiple in-person interviews and investigations.
NARR state affiliate, The Recovery Residence Alliance of Montana (RRAM), conducts these investigations and has currently certified 13 recovery homes in the state, including Crosswinds Recovery in Missoula.
The RRAM certification process is meant to assist recovery homes in providing the best care possible.
“It's a lengthy process, but we feel our standards, the NARR standards, which are the National Alliance of Recovery Residences. Those are the most recognized, well-adopted standards that exist,” Peter Maney, director of RRAM, says. “And they're intense. And they're designed to be, and it's for the protection of those people in the recovery homes.”
One part of the standards includes financial openness when accepting residents. This makes sure those in recovery know what they are getting into when joining a home and aren't blindsided by surprise fees.
Another important aspect of the certification process is investigating the interpersonal relationships within a home. This includes opportunities for social-based recovery and community, according to Maney.
“And so that's the main purpose of the standards is to see if there's an actual recovery-focused community, and healthy relationships are being formed within the home," he says. "We're looking for protections for the residents that they're not being taken advantage of. That they actually have what they need to build those connections and live a life in recovery.”
RRAM provides free software for recovery homes that are certified, which will organize every aspect of the organization.
“There are some programs that need to raise their standards,” Maney says. “We know that and so again, we want people to apply because our heart is in this space. We know how quality recovery homes can change lives. So it's important to meet these operators and help them design a program that does that.”
While it will be difficult for homes to become certified before Oct. 1, Maney encourages organizations to apply as soon as possible, especially for those who rely on Department of Correction (DOC) funding.
Maney recognizes that taking away the DOC funding will possibly hurt certain recovery homes across the state, but says it is worth it to ensure a future of sustainable, healthy recovery programs.
“Early recovery is fragile,” Maney says. “It's that time in somebody's life where they've made the decision to get off of whatever they were doing, you know, whether it's one of the harder drugs or if it's alcohol, that's a difficult decision, even just right there. So it's too easy for a situation to come up and fall right back into that, that cycle of addiction. And so we want to make sure that that person will feel safe and protected… so those homes are extremely important.”
With SB 94, Maney is hopeful that recovery programming will become a wider discussed topic and lead to government funding down the road.