2/27/24 Bridge Coalition Meeting Notes

Opening Comments (Jim): 

  • Focusing on return to community: safe housing, relationships, and supporting their interests and passions
  • Still Working out logistics with Zoom and Calendar Invites
  • Formal Introductions were done in chat

The Bridge Scope and Vision (Vy): 

  • High rate of return to homelessness for young people exiting inpatient care
  • Cross-system information sharing and training
  • Developing Return To Community Plan
  • Developing opportunities for systems reform
  • Respect encouraged in this space

NorthStar Advocates Updates

SHB 1929: NorthStar Advocates Executive Director, Jim Theofelis reported significant strides on several fronts. SHB 1929 passed through the House and has made its way through the Senate Committee on Ways & Means- unanimously. SHB 1929 is in the Gov budget for $3 million and is in the House budget for $2.7 million. During the meeting Jim announced the good news, that SHB 1929 was pulled from the Senate Rules Committee and will be going to the Senate floor. Given the language within the bill Health Care Authority (HCA) has the authority to choose who will be selected to operate the Bridge Housing without the formal RFP process.

Session ends March 7th after which NorthStar Advocates will begin to focus on launching the housing programs with two site locations—Eastside and Westside—with 6-10 beds each, offering transitional housing for up to 90 days. The voluntary program prioritizes a clean and sober living environment, a direct response to the specific needs and requests of young individuals, identified as a key factor for success. NorthStar Advocates envisions many more houses in the future but has chosen to start with these two as a proof of concept before expanding to addition ages and locations.

Media Coverage: Media coverage has been on the rise, with recent exposure in the Seattle Times and an upcoming article in Crosscut. This attention is not just a spotlight on NorthStar Advocates but an opportunity to educate the public on the crucial significance of housing for young individuals discharging from inpatient facilities, amplifying awareness for SHB 1929.

Youth & Young Adults Engagement: Instead of competing with existing Youth Advisory Boards (YAB’s) NorthStar Advocates plans on engaging, strengthening, and collaborating with the YAB’s across the state to help develop the housing component and gain insights from young people with lived experience across WA. Our focus is on strengthening rather than competing. 

Website: The official launch of the NorthStar Advocates website marks a significant milestone. Positioned as the go-to platform, the website aims to be the central hub for individuals and providers seeking the best resources for youth and young adults transitioning from inpatient facilities and other systems of care. Visit www.northstaradvocates.org to explore the resources and information.

Future Trainings: Please contact Sarah Spier if you or your organization is interested in presenting on a topic or has ideas on future training topics.

Training Session Focus:

Strengthening Recovery Housing in Washington State: A Glimpse into WAQRR’s Impact

Jason Bliss, the seasoned Executive Director for the Washington Alliance for Quality Recovery Residences (WAQRR), shared insights from over 14 years in the recovery housing field, and his experience of being involved with nearly 500 homes.

WAQRR plays a pivotal role, providing essential technical assistance for recovery housing across the state and serving as a guiding force for those seeking support. Founded, approximately five years ago, WAQRR emerged from a collective effort to professionalize the industry. This initiative gained momentum as concerns regarding non-accredited or licensed recovery houses surfaced within entities such as HCA, DCYF, and the Attorney General’s Office. Legislative champion Lauren Davis, alongside robust community support, fueled WAQRR’s growth. A landmark moment arrived in 2023 with the passage of Second Substitute House Bill 1528, creating crucial chapters 41.05.760 RCW and 71.24.660 RCW, which apply to licensed or certified service providers who refer clients to recovery residences to support their recovery from a substance use disorder.

WAQRR’s accreditation process, which is gaining momentum, involves a multi-faceted approach. From free technical assistance and monthly training sessions, covering diverse topics like LGBTQIA+ best practices, Mental Health First Aid, and Conflict Resolution, to in-person networking events and monthly provider calls – the organization provides a comprehensive framework for recovery houses statewide. The program has seen remarkable growth, now comprising 33 providers and 141 houses. However, a persistent challenge remains – a 2-5% vacancy across the state. In response, WAQRR offers financial support, startup funding, and a thorough accreditation framework to address this gap.

The accreditation process unfolds in four key parts. First, providers receive free technical assistance to guide them through the process. Then comes the application phase – a robust endeavor involving a deep dive into home demographics, policies, and procedures, ensuring alignment with WAQRR’s quality standards. The subsequent interview process, conducted live online, delves deeper into the questions from the application. Finally, a home inspection, modeled closely after Section 8 and HUD guidelines, ensures that the home is in good condition and aligns with the provided description.

WAQRR’s accreditation levels range from Level 1 homes, akin to Oxford houses, to Level 4 homes, which include Residential Treatment Facilities. Accreditation is an annual process, featuring a yearly inspection and follow-up interview to ensure ongoing compliance with quality standards. WAQRR’s commitment extends beyond mere accreditation; it’s a comprehensive effort to enhance recovery housing practices across Washington state, providing a beacon of support for those navigating the challenging journey towards recovery and stability.

Currently, WAQRR is proactively addressing the critical need for funding within the recovery housing landscape. With a dedicated focus on mitigating the persistent 2-5% vacancy across the state, WAQRR stands ready to allocate available funds towards startup costs for the creation of new beds and capacity. In addition to supporting the establishment of new WAQRR-accredited houses, the organization extends financial assistance to existing providers. This support covers individuals moving into their homes for the initial three months and assists with associated moving fees.

Agency Spotlight– Rebuilt PHP

Ryan Chaffins, Executive Director of Rebuilt, a forthcoming partial hospitalization program (PHP), shared his transformative journey of overcoming substance use disorder, homelessness, and incarceration. Driven by personal and professional experiences in the substance use disorder field, Ryan found inspiration to establish Rebuilt. Set to open its doors in March, Rebuilt will provide Day Treatment for individuals aged 18 and above, offering a comprehensive array of services, including Acupuncture Therapy, Relapse Prevention, Life Skills, Psycho Education, Wellness and Nutrition, Employment/Resume Building, Process Groups, Housing and aftercare, as well as Expressive groups like Art, Music, and Horticulture. Positioned as an ideal step-down intervention for those exiting Inpatient Treatment, Rebuilt requires an assessment for enrollment. The program accepts most private insurance policies and Medicaid insurance for all levels of care. For individuals without insurance or coverage not accepted, Rebuilt plans to offer a discounted out-of-pocket rate, ensuring accessibility to much-needed services. Ryan’s personal journey and Rebuilt’s holistic approach underscore the commitment to supporting individuals in their recovery journey.

Community Updates:

There were no community updates.

Closing Comments:  

  • Jim mentioned emailing a NorthStar Advocate directly to receive a stipend if you identify as person with lived experience who is not being compensated by another organization,
  • Jim announced that SHB 1929 got through committee and is going to the Senate Floor,
  • Jim thanked everyone for their support and participation in this work.
Sarah Spier
Author: Sarah Spier