Offering further evidence of the growing clout of recovery support service providers, the recovery residence community in Missouri is celebrating its first-ever line item of funding support in that state's budget. The chairman of the Missouri Coalition of Recovery Support Providers tells Behavioral Healthcare Executive that despite a number of twists and turns in the process, advocates emerged in May with just over $2.6 million in funding—a welcome development given that federal Access to Recovery monies for recovery support efforts in the state expired a few years ago.
“This funding is in the core of the state now,” says the Rev. Ladell M. Flowers, who also serves as executive director of Dismas House of Kansas City. “It's not a grant anymore.”
Flowers attributes the recent success of the state recovery coalition to several factors, but largely to faith and to the strong case that a diverse coalition was able to make to state lawmakers. Advocates and legislative champions were able to counteract a misperception that only urban communities in Missouri would be hurt by funding shortages for recovery-focused services.
“We had to show that suburban and rural areas would be impacted as well,” says Flowers.
The coalition's effort to gain support for state funding began earlier this year when it earned the backing of the state administration. A bill that was first considered in the House (HB 2010) originally called for $3 million in funding. Soon in the appropriations process, Flowers says, he and his colleagues would begin to feel like “fish in a sea with sharks,” as it appeared that the $3 million proposal could get cut in half.
But a bipartisan group of legislators led by Democratic Rep. DaRon McGee and Republican Rep. Holly Rehder stepped in at that point, Flowers says, urging recovery support providers to send to their lawmakers some hard numbers to document that the state's drug crisis knows no regional or demographic lines. Their legislative colleagues in budget hearings began receiving data from constituents on their phones, right in the middle of budget hearings, Flowers says.
“The director of the Department of Mental Health said he had never seen anything like that,” he says.
What at one point looked to be a 50% drop in funding from the original proposal turned out to be only a small decline to just over $2.6 million, Flowers says. He credits the efforts of “a variety of people of multiple demographics coming together with one voice.”
Besides its efforts in advocacy for this money, the coalition also will be prominent in the actual distribution of funds. The legislation calls for organizations to be either nationally accredited recovery residences or state-certified recovery support providers in order to be eligible for the new recovery support services funding, Flowers says. As an affiliate of the National Alliance for Recovery Residences (NARR), the Missouri coalition has around 40 community- and faith-based organization members that have demonstrated that they meet NARR's operational standards, he says.
Addiction professionals annually convene at the National Conference on Addiction Disorders to share what’s working: Clinicians hear from thought leaders on delivering treatment, while executives of behavioral healthcare organizations learn how to run more effective, more efficient, and ethically minded businesses.