Change policy for Recovery Housing in NJ
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New Jersey's antiquated laws do not currently support Best Practices for Recovery Residences as recognized by SAMHSA and modeled by many other states who follow the NARR (National Alliance of Recovery Residences) standards. See link: https://www.samhsa.gov/homelessness-programs-resources/hpr-resources/recovery-homes-help-people
Currently, New Jersey's Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Rooming and Boarding House Standards do not align nor comply with the Federal Fair Housing Act which allows group homes to exist without discrimination in any residential zone. Addictions are disabilities and people who suffer from drug or alcohol addictions qualify as having a disability and worthy of non-discrimination.
The only type of recovery housing that is exempted from the Rooming and Boarding House Standards are the "Oxford House" or “Oxford-like” houses. The major difference is that Oxford Houses are democratically run by the residents. They all have to vote on who moves in and who is expelled from the house. They also have to control their own bank account as a house and pay all of their bills jointly. This is good for some but not for all. For all the NIMBY people out there, we would just pose one question - WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE A SUPERVISED RECOVERY HOUSE IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD OR UNSUPERVISED? Right now, what is allowed is the unsupervised model, so when a recovery house gets inspected by DCA, they tell you that you have to become Oxford-like and remove your house manager.
The landscape of those living in recovery housing has changed over the years. Where it was once an older alcoholic, it is now many times the young heroin addict. What makes NARR Level 2 & 3 houses so successful is the accountability residents have to Recovery Support Specialists, accountability to clean urines, curfews, chores, and the therapeutic value of one resident helping another. Lori Criss, who helped define the model for Recovery Housing in Ohio stated, “Safe and affordable housing is essential for all people. For a person disabled by the disease of addiction, residential stability is a critical part of recovery. Research indicates that the longer a person remains in an alcohol- and drug-free environment with support for recovery, the greater the chance of long-term sobriety, increased financial well-being, and overall stability.”
New Jersey needs to recognize that more is needed than Oxford Houses and that licensing through DCA is not the answer. Many other states have led the way with Recovery Housing becoming certified through a NARR affiliate using the NARR standards. Accredited programs meet the high level standards that assure a high caliber of service in addressing the needs of the addicted community. It is imperative during this major opioid epidemic that we have easy access to structured supportive sober living in NJ. Please support the bill A3607 to ensure that Recovery Housing is done right.
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