The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) funds community organizations that help participants with substance-use disorders through provision of Recovery Support Services (RSS). The state agency has partnered with Dr. Spence and the Addiction Research Institute (ARI) at The University of Texas at Austin’s School of Social Work to create an automated reporting and evaluation system, and to provide technical assistance and training for community programs and recovery coaches.

The primary concept driving the RSS initiative is that of Recovery Oriented Systems of Care (ROSC). A ROSC is based on the recognition that addiction is a chronic health condition, similar in many ways to other chronic health problems such as diabetes or hypertension, which are usually disorders of life-long duration. Chronic disorders sometimes may require treatment for acute symptoms to resolve an immediate crisis. However, this treatment does not cure the disorder. Following treatment, patients are educated about how to maintain their recovery. This requires life-long attention to health and wellness practices in order to achieve and remain symptom-free. Failure to maintain diet and health regimens will ensure recurrence of life-threatening symptoms. Achieving and maintaining recovery from alcoholism and addiction also may require occasional treatment for acute problems, but more importantly, it requires lifelong work to maintain health and wellness in all areas of life. It also often requires peer and family social support for recovery.

A key strategy in the RSS is the recruitment of Peer Recovery Coaches to provide support and guidance to program participants in their recovery. Through this project, social work researchers at The University of Texas at Austin collaborate with recovery coaches and community-based organizations to support the development of ROSCs and the recovery of individuals with substance-use disorders and their families. In addition, program evaluation of the project contributes to the growing body of recovery oriented evidence-based practices.