ODCP Bimonthly Newsletter July 2020- WVARR


The West Virginia Alliance of Recovery Residences (WVARR) is the state’s National Alliance for Recovery Residences affiliate. The role of WVARR is to provide support for local recovery residences through advocacy, training, data collection, and overseeing best-practice standards. During the past quarter, WVARR’s work has progressed despite the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented a wealth of challenges across the globe; the nation is facing months of dislocation, uncertainty, stress, and potential isolation as we come to terms with our new day-to-day realities. The impacts of COVID-19 have been devastating for people with substance use disorders. Johann Harri once said, “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.” Meanwhile, amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, Support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous have either ceased or shifted to virtual platforms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends “social isolation” and recovery support services.

WVARR staff compiled and disseminated a comprehensive list of 12-step and other recovery support meetings across the state. This list can be found
here. From mid-March to the end of May, WVARR hosted weekly open calls for recovery residence operators and staff to discuss the challenges they experienced related to COVID-19 and to develop solutions to overcome them. (Monthly calls have been held since June and will continue). At a time when service need has increased, recovery residence operators were forced to determine how to continue accepting admissions while still ensuring the safety of residents already living in their houses, many of which are particularly high-risk individuals. Public health officials recommended quarantining newly admitted residents for 14 days upon arrival. Some residences were able to designate quarantine spaces in their houses, while others inevitably halted or placed significant restrictions on admissions. Both options resulted in loss of revenue.

Many recovery residences across the state have experienced significant financial hardship. Some have reported that they are at-risk for closing their operations. With less than 50% receiving state funding, West Virginia recovery residences largely depend on resident program fees to sustain the day-to-day operations of their programs. Many residents have lost employment, and others are forced to continue working in high-risk situations, like food service or retail. In a recent survey, 60% of recovery residence operators reported that between 65% and 100% of their residents had lost employment due to COVID-19. As a safety precaution, many residences have limited admissions to individuals coming from supervised settings, including corrections and treatment facilities. Many individuals coming from these settings are considered non-eligible for state or federal unemployment benefits due to limited or nonexistent employment history within the required time frame.

WVARR applied for and received funding to create a relief fund that will serve to alleviate some of the immediate financial challenges and hopefully ensure that recovery residences can continue to provide vital recovery support services to West Virginians with substance use disorders. The funding will be awarded via mini grants, with probably a $5,000 maximum. WVARR also created a comprehensive survey to more clearly assess the financial impact of COVID-19 on their operations. That survey will be a pre-requisite to determining if more funding is needed. 

Contact Information

Emily Birkhead- ebirckhead@recoverypointwv.org