New kid on the block: An investigation of the physical, operational, personnel, and service characteristics of recovery community centers in the United States

J Subst Abuse Treat. 2020 Apr:111:1-10. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2019.12.009. Epub 2019 Dec 19.


Background: Professional treatment and non-professional mutual-help organizations (MHOs) play important roles in mitigating addiction relapse risk. More recently, a third tier of recovery support services has emerged that are neither treatment nor MHO that encompass an all-inclusive flexible approach combining professionals and volunteers. The most prominent of these is Recovery Community Centers (RCCs). RCC's goal is to provide an attractive central recovery hub facilitating the accrual of recovery capital by providing a variety of services (e.g., recovery coaching; medication assisted treatment [MAT] support, employment/educational linkages). Despite their growth, little is known formally about their structure and function. Greater knowledge would inform the field about their potential clinical and public health utility.

Method: On-site visits (2015-2016) to RCCs across the northeastern U.S. (K = 32) with semi-structured interviews conducted with RCC directors and online surveys with staff assessing RCCs': physicality and locality; operations and budgets; leadership and staffing; membership; and services.

Results: Physicality and locality: RCCs were mostly in urban/suburban locations (90%) with very good to excellent Walk Scores reflecting easy accessibility. Ratings of environmental quality indicated neighborhood/grounds/buildings were moderate-good attractiveness and quality. Operations: RCCs had been operating for an average of 8.5 years (SD = 6.2; range 1-33 years) with budgets (mostly state-funded) ranging from $17,000-$760,000/year, serving anywhere from a dozen to more than two thousand visitors/month. Leadership and staffing: Center directors were mostly female (55%) with primary drug histories of alcohol (62%), cocaine (19%), or opioids (19%). Most, but not all, directors (90%) and staff (84%) were in recovery. Membership: A large proportion of RCC visitors were male (61%), White (72%), unemployed (50%), criminal-justice system-involved (43%) and reported opioids (35%) or alcohol (33%) as their primary substance. Roughly half were in their first year of recovery (49%), but about 20% had five or more years. Services: RCCs reported a range of services including social/recreational (100%), mutual-help (91%), recovery coaching (77%), and employment (83%) and education (63%) assistance. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) support (43%) and overdose reversal training (57%) were less frequently offered, despite being rated as highly important by staff.

Conclusions: RCCs are easily accessible, attractive, mostly state-funded, recovery support hubs providing an array of services to individuals in various recovery stages. They appear to play a valued role in facilitating the accrual of social, employment, housing, and other recovery capital. Research is needed to understand the relative lack of opioid-specific support and to determine their broader impact in initiating and sustaining remission and cost-effectiveness.

Keywords: Addiction; Recovery; Recovery coaching; Recovery community centers; Substance use disorder; Support services.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Employment*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Public Health*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States