March 2009

Dear Friends of the Institute for Addiction Recovery at Rhode Island College:

Now that 2009 is here, it is time to update you on the activities of the Institute over these last few tumultuous months and to provide you with a summary of our very busy first year of existence. We have had our share of successes and also our share of challenges and bumps in the road. More than ever, we are committed to our mission of supporting Rhode Island's individuals, families and communities who are in recovery.

Let's start off with the year in review...


The Institute's accomplishments in its first year include:

  • completing an initial strategic plan in the first six weeks of the Institute's establishment
  • forming an Advisory Board of over 32 senior level community leaders from organizations and agencies in the state
  • conducting an Inaugural Forum on addiction recovery with two national speakers which involved over 100 representatives of all constituencies related to the Institute's mission
  • initiating and continuing relationships with four academic departments at RI College and three other entities on the RI College campus whose studies or mission are related to addiction recovery
  • assisting an Interdisciplinary Committee to establish mutually agreed upon requirements for an academic specialization in co-occurring disorders based on international certification requirements (I am on the executive committee of the international certifying board); the first joint effort among the departments of psychology, counseling psychology and social work
  • conducting extensive groundwork for the establishment of Rhode Island's first Recovery Center including: creating a prospectus, securing the support of the RIC Foundation Board of Directors for the project, visiting three New England recovery centers, conducting research on recovery centers and addiction recovery, arranging a meeting with local politicians serving the neighborhood where the Center will be, conducting eleven focus groups with representatives of the recovery community, developing a job description for the recovery manager position and interviewing candidates, organizing a massive clean-up of the proposed facility with 50 volunteers and developing a mailing list of over 100 volunteers
  • securing funding for two college lectures on "Special Issues Related to Addiction Recovery." The first "Women and Addiction Recovery: Beginning the Conversation" held on November 7 was attended by a cross-section of 25 academic and community members. The second "Disabilities and Addiction Recovery: Beginning the Conversation," held on December 15, evolved into a community forum of 140 people representing all aspects of the disabilities, substance abuse and mental health services.
  • having articles about the Institute published in the national journal, Addiction Professional entitled "A Catalyst for Collaboration" and in US Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Weekly featuring our second annual forum
  • securing a second year of funding from the RI Foundation for the director's position
  • submitting an editorial on youth drinking that was published in the Providence Journal
  • developing an Institute brochure
  • facilitating outreach to the RI Latino and faith communities to engage them in the state's Access to Recovery project
  • partnering with a local agency on a recovery-focused project
  • facilitating a strategic planning process for the New England Alliance for Addiction Recovery
  • initiating an inventory of "sober houses" in RI, including development of an inventory survey; researching the status of sober housing initiatives in other states; and meeting with the members of the Drug and Alcohol Treatment Association of RI, RICARES, RI's recovery organization, and a representative of MHRH's Division of Behavioral Healthcare to gather background information on this issue
  • serving on the boards of the Addiction Technology Transfer Center-New England, the New England Institute of Addiction Studies and the RI Board for the Certification of Chemical Dependency Professionals as well as the Council on Behavioral Healthcare


Our greatest challenge has been the initiative to establish RI's first addiction Recovery Center. In late September, our major benefactor withdrew his financial support for the Institute and thus the plans for a recovery center were put on hold. At this juncture, with no funding to open a center, it is the position of the Institute Steering Committee, supported by the Rhode Island College Foundation and the College administration itself that the Institute will continue to encourage and support efforts by the recovery and treatment communities to establish a Recovery Center in Rhode Island. This is one of our primary goals. We intend to share all the information that we have about setting up a Center, including the volunteer list we have developed. We also intend to offer to collaborate with any host organization to co-locate a "Center for Excellence" at the Center to utilize the many resources of the Institute (as a Rhode Island College entity) to provide interns, opportunities for applied research, program evaluation and staff and participant training focused on recovery support at the Center. It is our best hope that these efforts will address our goal to ensure that a Recovery Center is established so that this need is met.

Our second and most pressing challenge is to identify funds to support the continuation of the Institute and its activities in the worst economic climate in 75 years. We will be seeking grant funds as well as potential benefactors for the Institute from those who will invest in the recovery agenda we have set forth.

Future Plans

The Institute's strategic plan is driven by the input of its supporters.

  • Priorities: The Institute Advisory Board has identified three priorities on which it would like to focus: parity and reimbursement; policy and advocacy that support addiction recovery for individuals, families and communities; and education and workforce development. One of the key issues identified by the Board is the need to present to policy makers the reality of addiction recovery as a healthcare priority and not merely a human services "problem." The Board will reconvene on March 19 to set its action agenda.
  • Women's and Disabilities Task Forces: Both the forum on women and on disabilities and addiction recovery resulted in a call for continuing the discussion on these issues. A task force has been formed on each topic to further an action agenda to meet the needs of these special populations. The purpose of these task forces is to identify specific actions that the RI community can take to improve recovery-support services to these populations. If you are interested in being part of these groups, please email me at
  • Future Forums: Based on the success of the previous two topic forums, we have applied to the College for funding to host two additional "special population" forums before this summer. The first would focus on the recovery needs of the GLBT community while the second would highlight the issues of the elderly and addiction recovery. More news on these later!
  • Sober/Recovery Housing Inventory: During our focus groups concerning the needs of the recovery community, it was quite clear that the ability of persons in early recovery to find safe, sober housing was a significant problem. To respond to this need, the Institute is planning to develop an inventory of sober/recovery houses in the state. The inventory will list basic information, such as contact information and participation requirements. Addresses will only be listed if the sites wish them to be, if there are any concerns about anonymity. Our goal is to facilitate what appears to be the often difficult process of finding a safe and sober place to live. If you know of a sober house that we could contact to see if they wish to be included in this inventory, please contact us at
  • Institute To Present: We are excited to inform you that Dr. Dottie Bianco, member of the Institute Steering Committee, and I will be making three presentations on issues related to women and addiction recovery at the national conference of the Association of Women in Psychology which will be held in Newport March 12-15. For more information, go to the website: Outside
  • News in the Field: We are delighted to welcome Ian Knowles as the new coordinator of RICARES. Ian recently retired from a position in the office of substance abuse at MHRH and is known by many of us as a dedicated professional in our field. Welcome also Judy Fox who is the new state coordinator of the Access to Recovery grant! Judy comes to MHRH from the mentoring program in the women's prison where she has been for many years. Her work there gave her first-hand knowledge of the needs of persons seeking recovery support in RI. We are thrilled to have these excellent folks working in addiction recovery.

Dates to Remember

  • Disabilities and Addiction Recovery Task Force meeting: March 18 at 2:30 pm in the RIC Student Union Room 307
  • Institute Advisory Board: March 19 at 8:30 in the RIC Student Union Room 307

We thought you might be interested in information about the new "Parity Law". If you would like to read about this please open the other attachment we have included in this email. Thank you for your continued interest in the Institute for Addiction Recovery. You'll be hearing from us soon about our progress.

Sandra Del Sesto, director

Page last updated: March 16, 2009