Super Friends: CORE Joins the National Sober Living Association

Super Friends: CORE Joins the National Sober Living Association

Citing the advantages of strong alliances, CEO Cary McKee recently announced our new membership in the National Sober Living Association!  In the past CORE has freely associated with local agencies and organizations to promote our goals and values.  Cary sees our NSLA membership as a way to promote sobriety and recovery nationally, in contrast to recent trends of using narcotic medications to address addiction issues.

The Missouri Department of Mental Health currently implements a “Medication First” approach for all state-funded substance abuse treatment providers.  This is a type of medically assisted treatment (MAT).  Paradoxically, the medications used are addictive – they include controlled substances like Methadone and Suboxone.  The features of this approach, according to the Department-approved website, are:

1. Addicts receive replacement narcotics “as quickly as possible, prior to lengthy assessments or treatment planning sessions;”

2. Addicts are maintained on narcotics without “arbitrary tapering or time limits,” and maintenance is discontinued only if their condition “worsens”; and

3. Psychosocial services are “not required as a condition” for receiving narcotics! 

Cary told us that he recently attended a national conference where there was discussion about a proposal for requiring MAT for all “state clients,” i.e., clients under court supervision.  Such a proposal would force state clients to seek treatment from MAT-only providers, both state-funded and otherwise.  As a policy it ignores the critical differences between recovery from addiction and overdose prevention.  One cannot even be sober, let alone recover, while addicted to narcotics.

State clients are a relatively smaller but significant part of the population that CORE serves.  They deserve recovery too.  Applying a sweeping MAT policy to them raises the specter of having methadone addicts nodding off in our classes and residences.  That’s not CORE values.  We won’t encourage one addiction over another, or any addiction at all for that matter, and we cannot take clients who proverbially have swallowed the spider to catch the fly.  CORE’s clients recover physically as well as mentally and spiritually.  They go on to lead happy, fulfilling, and drug-free lives.  The 12 Step promises are beyond the reach of persons who make narcotic drugs their Higher Power.

Thus, it is this impending “push to pigeon-hole everybody into a MAT program” that prompted Cary to join forces with the NSLA.  As a national organization it can present a united front before state and federal agencies, the public, and media.  With friends and allies we can more effectively work to assure that recovery remains an alternative for all clients, and CORE is very much committed to this goal.    

NSLA’s Executive Director is Megan Frankl.  During Cary’s first conversation with her, he saw that the values of our two organizations closely align.  All NSLA members must abide by ethical standards, promote 12 Step abstinence, and have zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol – including prescription narcotics. “Right out of the gate, I knew that we were a fit,” Cary told us.  Other CORE staff members who talked to Megan had a similar reaction.  As an example, during a subsequent telephone interview, Megan told us that, “The greatest honor of my life is that I have a front row seat to see miraculous recoveries.”  We share her sentiments wholeheartedly and feel an immediate sense of kinship with her, the kind that comes from our common experience of working the 12 Steps.  Megan also told us that her passion for the NSLA is both professional and personal.  “Sober living saved my life,” she said, “I lived in one years ago.  I would not be alive and happy today had it not been what I learned in that home.”  

The NSLA is fairly recent to the national stage.  Beginning as a regional association of sober living homes, in 2018 it branched out into a network that advocates nationwide for quality sober living.  In only three years, it has emerged to become a national force, with over 50 members located in 14 states across the country.  The NSLA’s bottom line, Megan said, “is saving lives, because we work with a vulnerable population.  That’s why the NSLA exists, to protect the individual searching so desperately for a safe place to learn how to recover.”  Organizations gain membership through an application process that also includes a quality assurance review, inspections, and trainings conducted by NSLA board members.  

We at CORE are excited to be a member of an organization that shares our confidence in and enthusiasm for 12 Step recovery.  Our hope is that CORE can play a key role in the NSLA and help it expand to all 50 states.  Sober living homes and recovery programs are stronger together than we are alone.  Together our message is more than simply a moral pitch for abstinence.  We can make a pragmatic case for recovery, and for complete freedom from drugs and alcohol!