Recovery houses across the state are shutting down

Monitor staff
Published: 9/26/2020 2:42:19 PM

Recovery houses, faced with unemployed residents and restricted capacity due to COVID-19, are closing across New Hampshire.

Kim Bock, the executive director of the New Hampshire Coalition of Recovery Residents, said since the beginning of the pandemic, seven houses, or an estimated 117 beds, have gone off the market.

For those leaving addiction treatment centers, the houses offer affordable housing and peer support to aid them in their recovery. However, as unemployment has risen in the state, so too have unemployment rates in the houses.

At the beginning of the pandemic, 85% of the residents living in the houses certified with NHCORR were unemployed, Bock said. Furthermore, referrals to the houses from treatment centers dramatically decreased for a period of time – by nearly 80% – because the centers stopped accepting patients while they determined how to handle COVID-19.

For many of the houses, which rely on housing fees from their residents and operate on thin margins, the lost revenue has pushed them into a state of uncertainty.

The closing of recovery houses is especially worrisome as some markers – such as overdose rates and alcohol sales – suggest those with substance use disorder are struggling during the pandemic.

Kristine Paquette, the executive director of Homestead Inn – one of only two recovery houses in Merrimack County, said during the pandemic she changed all of the double bedrooms to singles to prevent the spread of COVID-19, effectively cutting the house’s income in half.

Even before the pandemic, Homestead Inn had operated on extremely slim margins.

“This is not a moneymaker,” she said. “I run in the red almost every month.”

She said if the house didn’t have funding from the state opiate response fund, they wouldn’t have survived. Homestead Inn was one of the only recovery houses to receive a SOR grant.

Many houses have been hit worse than the Homestead Inn, Paquette said. She heard of one facility that had a 100% unemployment rate.

Recovery homes in the state received $1.8 million in funding from the CARES Act. Still, Bock said it will be incredibly difficult to recover the lost beds because of the federal restrictions on the money. The restrictions stipulate the money must be spent by Dec.30.

That means, if new a home wants to use this money to build new beds, everything – from acquiring land to doling out contracts to builders – has to be done in the next three months.

“If you want to open a new house, can you do that by Dec. 30?” she said. “If you don’t have plans already in place and you don’t have a contractor lined up, how are you going to get one? That deadline when COVID is still affecting us all is unrealistic.”

Bock thinks, eventually, when the market recovers some new houses will open up. But in the meantime, Paquette said many have been stuck in limbo. In the last month, she has received several referrals from treatment centers a day. Right now, there just isn’t enough room.

One man will wait in Concord Prison until a bed opens up. Several others are spending extra time in treatment facilities.

“There’s a desperate need for it,” she said. “There’s just nothing available.”


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