As Tom Burden and Warrie Boyd analyzed the addiction treatment and recovery landscape, they saw numerous examples of world-class treatment options but little in sober living to match. The two recovering individuals' strategy to address this became not one of buying and converting a house, but creating a true recovery community from the ground up.
New Points last spring began housing its first residents in five modern homes resting on a quiet cul-de-sac near Bel Air, Md. A townhome community is located behind the houses, but otherwise there are no immediate neighbors. Up to 40 men at a time can reside in one of two programs: a sober-living component generally serving individuals in their 20s and a young professionals component generally serving a 30-and-older group.
No clinical services are delivered on site (Boyd tells Behavioral Healthcare Executive that New Points will operate as a Level 3 community according to the four-level structure advanced by the National Alliance for Recovery Residences). But Boyd says the community has a resident manager, is staffed by certified recovery coaches, and provides much-needed structure to men in early recovery. Boyd, who serves as NARR's liaison in Maryland, is New Points' executive director.
“I went through sober living in my 20s, and the level of support was pretty much, 'Here's a bed; go to AA,'” Boyd says. “I did, and I got a sponsor, but many of the people I lived with didn't follow the instructions, and they started drinking again.”
Burden, a prominent advertising executive who saw his career interrupted by addiction, toured the country as he conceptualized what he wanted to establish. “I saw a lot of people who had simply bought a home, fixed it up, and were doing the best they could,” Burden tells Behavioral Healthcare Executive. Options have been available for individuals at each end of the income spectrum, but “there was that slice of the middle- and upper middle-class group that would have a problem functioning in a community so foreign to them,” he says.
“There was nothing in the market to meet the needs of someone at the executive level,” adds Boyd.
The idea became one of creating a supportive sober community in a site with attractive amenities. The Bel Air location is ideal because it has one of the most active recovery communities in the Mid-Atlantic and is proximate to transportation, employment opportunities and entertainment venues for residents, Boyd says. On-site features include meeting rooms, work spaces and a gym.
Considerations in development
The selected location also helped the developers avoid some of the neighborhood concerns that often complicate the process of taking root in a community. Boyd says there was some unrest at first in the neighboring townhome development, but several meetings with residents helped the community understand New Points' goals.
Boyd and Burden would not discuss what it cost to develop the property and community, but say that the costs for residents are $1,200 a month in the sober-living component and $1,600 a month in the working professionals program.
The two groups live in separate houses, with the working professionals maintaining access to technology and the younger residents earning that privilege only after meeting certain recovery milestones.
Residents must complete an inpatient stay before moving in. Also, “You have to believe you are battling a disease,” Boyd says, as the community's approach is rooted in 12-Step recovery.
Goal setting is also critical. “When you leave here, I want you to go to something bigger and better,” Boyd says.
Residents stay in the community for at least three months. Organizers envision generally drawing from the Mid-Atlantic region, and see some residents choosing to remain in the recovery-friendly area after their stay.
Burden says he worked with a team of architects that bought into the concept and were able top bring recovery-friendly housing to life. Within the homes, “You cannot walk from one room to another without getting the kind of support you need that day,” he says.