Successful Access to Recovery (ATR) Opioid Recovery Program Receives $2.7 Million in State Funding to Help Participants Pay for Sober Housing

Access to Recovery (ATR) received $2.7 million in state funding in the Massachusetts state budget to supplement the federal dollars it receives through the State Opioid Response (SOR) grant. This new allocation will enhance and expand the program and will be used primarily to provide housing subsidies to ATR participants for sober housing as part of a new Sober Home Pilot Project. ATR is a unique 6-month program for Massachusetts residents who have or are at risk of having opioid use disorder (OUD) and are seeking support for recovery and community reentry.

The added infusion of funds will help ATR participants with one of the biggest barriers to recovery: stable housing, which is a key component to successful recovery. The money will help participants pay for their rent in certified sober homes so they have a period of stable housing as they learn how to transition back into the community. ATR will also provide comprehensive supports to participants to help them find and apply for sober home placements, learn the home’s regulations and rules, and transition to life in a group setting while working on their recovery. Each participant will be assigned a Sober Home Housing Coordinator and a Sober Home Recovery Coach, who will meet with them at least once per week to help them navigate any challenges and develop a housing plan for when the ATR vouchers cease.

Sober homes are transitional group residences that provide a bridge between residential treatment or other institutional settings (e.g., prisons, jails, hospitals) and life in the community. Within the past few years, Massachusetts developed a sober home certification process, and more than 170 sober homes across the state have secured certification through MASH–Massachusetts Alliance for Sober Housing and meet required quality and safety standards.

“Sober homes that are certified by the state are the ideal housing entities for people who are trying to transition to a drug-free life,” said Rebecca Starr, director of the ATR program and senior program manager at Advocates for Human Potential, Inc. (AHP). “The homes are substance free and run by peers—individuals who have once been where they are and can help them adjust back into the community.”

ATR differs from traditional treatment programs by providing recovery support services that address social support, housing, employment, transportation and basic needs. Massachusetts allocates more of its federal SOR money toward recovery support services than any other state. Total ATR participant numbers have surpassed 25,000, and overdose rates among participants are less than 1 percent while enrolled in the program.

The average cost for one participant in the 6-month ATR program is $2,000, a fraction of the $54,000 cost to incarcerate an individual for 1 year in Massachusetts. In addition to low rates of overdose, outcomes of the ATR program include decreased rates of criminal justice involvement, decreased rates of drug use, increases in employment and housing and improved quality of life. ATR in Massachusetts offers a model for other states to consider in using federal and state funding to combat the opioid crisis. The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will soon release another $1.5 billion as an enhancement of existing SOR funding, which states could use to implement their own ATR programs.

Housing and employment are the two essential ingredients for stabilization in recovery once a person has undergone substance use disorder (SUD) treatment. With the addition of the Sober Home Pilot Project, ATR will now be able to facilitate both employment and housing. ATR addresses employment through its Career Building Initiative (CBI) program, which helps hundreds of people per year explore careers, become job ready and learn the occupational skills necessary to enter the workforce. As a result, many more people are employed by the time they finish the ATR program.

ATR, now in its ninth year, uses person-centered supports for adults in early recovery by providing recovery support services, including care coordination, financial support for participants’ basic living needs (e.g., transportation passes, clothing, hygiene products, government ID cards), individualized recovery coaching and CBI.

ATR serves individuals in four regions of the state: Boston, Worcester, New Bedford and Hampden County (Springfield/Holyoke). AHP, in Sudbury, implements the ATR program.

More information about the program, how to refer individuals, and opportunities for job-training providers to become part of the ATR network is available on the ATR website at http://www.ma-atr.org. A new video sharing participant success stories is also available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zw_uJGUskw&feature=youtu.be.
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