B.C. takes steps to improve recovery homes for those seeking help with substance use and mental health

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      Over the past few days, the B.C. government has announced a number of changes to assist supportive recovery homes within the province. They include a new set of regulatory requirements and an increase in daily rates for income assistance clients at these facilities. 

      Supportive recovery homes are housing facilities that provide care, treatment, and services to individuals struggling with substance use or mental health issues. In B.C., they have come under fire in the past due to a lack of oversight, funding, and regulations. 

      “The recovery home sector has been the wild west for a number of years without anybody really paying very close attention to what happens in recovery homes,” Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy said in a phone interview with the Georgia Straight.

      “The role of the goal of these regulations is to change that, so that when someone who reaches out for help...they can have peace of mind and they have some sense of safety and security that the services provided are going to be at a certain standard.” 

      Darcy announced the new regulations on August 21 at the Last Door Recovery Centre in New Westminster, where she is also an MLA.

      They consist of a number of changes to the Community Care and Assisted Living Act. For one, supportive recovery homes will now have to ensure that their staff has been properly trained in a variety of fields.

      “It could be different staff who take different training,” Darcy said, “but here are some of the areas of training: overdose prevention, counseling, criminal record checks, what are called psychosocial interventions, conflict resolution—that kind of thing.”

      When prospective residents come to supportive recovery homes, the facilities are now also required to provide them with a comprehensive overview of the services they provide. If someone decides to check in, the facility must then develop a “personal service plan” with the resident in order to lay out their specific recovery goals.

      “Recovery home operators have different approaches and different policies, and people have the right to know before they decide ‘this is where I'm going to go, this is where I want to be’ what kinds of programs and services are offered,” Darcy said. “So they would have that up front, and then they would be able to sit down with someone and talk about what kinds of programs and services they feel they need.” 

      Likewise, recovery homes must now also offer transitional support to patients and connect them with specific services once they leave the facility. It’s within this period when a person leaves a recovery home that Darcy says patients are particularly vulnerable.

      “They will presumably not have been using substances while they're in the recovery home, and if they were to use drugs on the street that are laced with fentanyl, that means that they're at an even greater risk.”

      Residents at these facilities who are on income assistance will also see their rates increase for the first time in 10 years.

      Income assistance recipients in supportive recovery homes have their cheques sent directly to the facilities, which then deduct funds for room and boarding costs and provide the resident with a spending allowance. 

      Rates for clients at registered recovery homes for substance use and mental health issues will increase from $30.90 to $35.90 per day. At licensed supportive recovery homes—which offer higher levels of care for individuals who need extra support—rates will increase from $30.90 to $45 for mental health homes and from $40 to $45 for substance use homes. 

      These increases are meant to cover an increase in daily user fees for recovery homes that the Ministry of Health announced last week in order to help these facilities with their expenses.

      Social Development and Poverty Reduction Minister Shane Simpson announced these changes on August 23 at the Realistic Success Recovery Society in Surrey.

      “A lot of the people supported by these facilities face additional and significant barriers as a result of poverty,” he said in a news release. “Rate increases are a step toward addressing the cost pressures that facility operators must manage, and these increases will ensure that our most vulnerable populations have access to the support they need, when they need it.”

      At the same event, Darcy also announced that the province will be providing up to $4,000 in grants for supportive recovery homes to assist them with managing the costs of the new regulations.

      The changes in income assistance rates come into effect on October 1, while the new regulations kick in this December.