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Helpful Tips for Opening a Successful Recovery House
Opening and operating a successful recovery house takes proper planning and execution. First and foremost, one must be fully committed to assuming responsibility for helping create and continuing to maintain supportive living environment for persons in the early stages of recovering from mental illness and substance abuse disorders. It’s truly a labor of love. The early stages of the recovery process may be very challenging for people leaving substance abuse or mental health treatment facilities. Recovery housing can offer structure, peer support and a safe environment to help these individual work toward achieving goals of sober, healthy, independent living. There are several important elements essential to opening the type of a recovery house which is best designed to help clients transition in the early recovery process. These elements are: a solid business plan; a suitable location of the house; compliance with local and state building and health codes, rules, regulations; and certification and funding from appropriate sources such as DMHAS (Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services). Proper planning with respect to these important issues can make the transition from a plan on paper to making beds available in a recovery house a reality (OLR Research report).
To begin, the location of the recovery house is very important. There are two main considerations: practical and legal. Practical consideration relate to the advantages and disadvantages for the recovery house owner and the recovery house residents of the house being located in a certain area. The legal considerations relate to whether or not a recovery house can be located in a particular area or not.
In terms of practical considerations, the best areas to consider are those near the bus line or train station as most people in early recovery will need access to public transportation so they can access to outpatient services, twelve-step meetings, psychiatric, and medical services. Also it is much easier for recovery house residents to search for, find, and commute to work using nearby public transportation. Using public records, investigate the level of crime, in particular drug-related crimes, in potential house locations. People want to feel safe in their home and in their neighborhoods. These are important aspects to consider before opening a recovery house. After the area or a specific location has been identified the next step is zoning.
Zoning considerations are important to consider. They would include multi-family, single residents, boarding home etc. Accurate zoning determination should be done prior to the purchase. You might need a zoning variance to operate a recovery house. Floor plans are important to consider. Three family homes offer maximum bed space with the occupancy of two per room. One or two single rooms may be available as the resident demonstrates continuous sobriety. For instance, there needs to be a bathroom for every six people living in the house. Every room must have a smoke detector. A proper ventilation system is needed for the stove and a fire extinguisher must be available in the kitchen. These are just a few examples of the local buildings codes the state of Connecticut has set. It’s a good idea to check with town or City Hall to get information regarding local building codes (CCAR).
Additionally, some municipalities may prefer to prevent new recovery houses from opening in their municipality. The law will most probably prevent a municipality from stopping a recovery house from opening or forcing it to close down. The Connecticut General Assembly’s Chief analyst Paul Spigel recently reviewed and summarized the relevant law and determined that people with substance abuse disorders are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Federal Fair Housing Act and that any state and local zoning and other requirements applied to challenge recovery houses are subject to challenge in court. Very few houses have been challenged in the state and this is one avenue owners can take if they run into this problem (OLR Research Report).
The next step is to develop a comprehensive business plan. This will be a map to follow from starting to the execution of the recovery house. This will help to determine the needs of the business. The business plan is a vision of what the recovery house will look, function, and feel like on paper. As it starts to go forward adjustments may be necessary just remember that this is a plan to work from and changes are always part of it. A key piece of the business plan is the start-up budget.
Your budget, is the limit of money needed to buy or lease a recovery house, to make any improvements to the house to get it ready for operation, and then up and running for a period of time. The money may come from cash supplied by the recovery house owner, a mortgage, a loan, or grant money available from state, federal and non-profit organizations that provide grant money or low-interest loans to recovery houses meeting certain criteria. It’s important to stay as close within those budget parameters as possible. The two big initial expenses will be buying a house and marketing to procure residents to occupy the house so that it is always filled to capacity.
Ideally, the business plan will include a budget to buy, make any needed improvements to, and furnish the house and to keep it running for a good three to six months. This will allow for some breathing room in case one runs into some snags before the opening of the recovery house. Timing of the purchase is important as winter months will provide the highest occupancy rate. Optimal time is just prior to the start of winter. A small loan might be in order to meet the needs of a down payment, insurance, repairs and getting the house up to code. It’s always helpful to know or have a contractor look at the property you want to purchase and give you a solid material and labor take-off. This will give the scope of what cost are involved for repairs and getting the house up to code (CCAR).
The budget must include money to market the recovery house. Marketing costs can include setting up a website including the use of Facebook and Twitter platforms. Printing costs for pamphlets is another marketing cost. As part of marketing, the recovery house operator will visiting local detoxes and rehabs in the area to become familiar with counselors and to leave pamphlets and business cards is another cost effective way to market the business.
You also want to have the business set up separately from personal assets. Also important is the legal status of the business to protect the business owner from lawsuits and shield the owner from personal liability. The legal status of the business as an LLC (Limited Liability Company) is the best way to set the company up under. There are a number of ways to get this set up. Legal zoom is a quick cost effective way to set up an LLC. Or you can do this through an attorney of your choosing. It is recommended that you have an experienced attorney set this up for the owner so it is done correctly (legal Zoom).
After a house has been purchased, repairs and improvements are completed, and the house is furnished, the recovery house owner will want to fill the house with men or women depending on what decision has been made. The owner may choose to make it a male or female recovery house based on his or her assessment of what is most needed and. therefore, in greatest demand in the area. Next will be the application/contract process for those who are interested in the recovery house. The application itself will have the rules and regulations set by management.
The purpose of the rules of the recovery house is to promote the recovery of each individual resident and of the residents collectively and to promote and maintain a sober, safe, clean and orderly functioning household. Rules of the recovery house may include: mandatory attendance at a minimum of five twelve-step meetings, such as Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous, a week; curfews; random or planned drug testing; etc. Examples of specific rules may include requiring those residents looking for work to be out of the house by 8:30 a.m. and not return until 3:00 p.m. For drug testing, there can be a one-hour time limit to produce a urine. If it the drug test is positive, the person is the given one hour to leave the property (CCAR).
One approach to finding residents for the recovery house is to have the house certified by DMHAS. When certifying a house through DMHAS there is a certain criteria to follow such has residents must attend outpatient services when on basic needs. Also residents must sign in and out when they leave the property etc. With DMHAS certification, persons participating in the State of Connecticut Basis Needs program may live in the recovery house for two months with rent paid for through that program (Department of Mental Health and Human Services).
The recovery house should have an on-site house manager. A good house managers plays an important role in monitoring the health and safety of all residents. A house manager can be a person in recovery who has a substantial period of continuous sobriety. The role of the house manager is to monitor and ensure residents comply with the rules of the recovery house, report any resident noncompliance or house maintenance needs or issues to the house owns so that the house owner may take appropriate action can be taken. Actions could include holding a house meeting, meeting with an individual resident, drug testing, etc. The house manager may be responsible for drug testing and carrying out some actions delegated by the owner such as holding weekly or special house meetings and meeting with individual residents to discuss any issues related to house rules, chores and activities concerning members of the house. The house manager can be compensated by being allowed to live in a single room in the house and pay partial rent or no rent (CCAR).
With this in mind another important aspect to consider is clinical services for those who have mental health issues. Clinical services can be offered by a licensed clinician or Psychiatrist who comes on sight once or twice a month to offer residents an opportunity to get help outside the scope of twelve step programs. This is truly an important piece, because the recovery process is a collective effort and most if not all substance abusers have some type of mental health issue. This will allow residents who see their peers taking advantage of these services to get on board and work through fears and stigmas they may have about their own mental health issues. Very few recovery houses offer this in the state of Connecticut. This can be a great benefit to the business and residents who need professional help. If no such service are offered, it is important for the house owner and manager to try to meet with and become familiar with house residents so that the owner and house manager may be able to provide contact information for outside health care providers these residents may want or need access to. At a minimum, the house could have a bulletin board with contact information with support services, including medical, psychiatric, and social work services available in the area at low or no cost.
In addition to clinical aspects owners need to consider people who take MAT’s (Medicated Assisted Treatment) such as Methadone, Buprenorphine and Naltrexone access to the recovery house. Unfortunately there is still much discrimination and stigma with this population because people don’t understand the benefit of these medications. Federal laws prohibit discrimination against this population especially in the work force and rehabs that receive federal funding. When a recovery house is certified by DMHAS some of the money received by them is federal money. To receive this funding and other federal funding you must allow people on MAT’s access to the recovery house. For more information regarding MAT’s the American with Disabilities Act, Fair Housing Act, Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Workforce Investment Act go to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration). These are very important issues for those who are in recovery and people on MAT’s should have the ability to access recovery housing just like anyone else seeking the betterment of one’s life (U.S Department of Health and Human Services).
Successfully opening and operating a new recovery house in a manner that provides valuable recovery support to persons newly sober requires careful planning. A potential recovery house owner should consider and make decisions about such items as: start-up budget, finding a good location for a recovery house, marketing, house rules, finding a house manager, etc. A good business plan will take into account all of the factors and help make opening a recovery house easier. The steps discussed above have worked for many people interested in helping others work towards independent living. Besides having a profitable business, recovery house owners can have the opportunity to see individuals make positive changes in their lives and become a part of society.
1 be a person in recovery who has a substantial period of continuous sobriety. The role of the house manager is to monitor and ensure residents comply with the rules of the recovery house, report any resident noncompliance or house maintenance needs or issues to the house owns so that the house owner may take appropriate action can be taken. Actions could include holding a house meeting, meeting with an individual resident, drug testing, etc. The house manager may be responsible for drug testing and carrying out some actions delegated by the owner such as holding weekly or special house meetings and meeting with individual residents to discuss any issues related to house rules, chores and activities concerning members of the house. The house manager can be compensated by being allowed to live in a single room in the house and pay partial rent or no rent (CCAR).
In addition to clinical aspects owners need to consider people who take MAT’s (Medicated Assisted Treatment) such as Methadone, Buprenorphine and Naltrexone access to the recovery house. Unfortunately there is still much discrimination and stigma with this population because people don’t understand the benefit of these medications. Federal laws prohibit discrimination against this population especially in the work force and rehabs that receive federal funding. When a recovery house is certified by DMHAS some of the money received by them is federal money. To receive this funding and other federal funding you must allow people on MAT’s access to the recovery house. For more information regarding MAT’s the American with Disabilities Act, Fair Housing Act, Rehabilitat