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What does state-funded sober living look like in Delaware?

Delaware added the first of its four planned state-funded sober living homes earlier this year.

It is also the first facility in the state designated by the National Alliance for Recovery Residences as level-four. This means it combines both wraparound medical treatment for addiction as well as job training programs for its residents.

But as Delaware Public Media’s Nick Ciolino reports the long term strategy for funding this and the other sites coming to the First State is still being worked out.

During the morning workforce development session at the Refuge in Bear, a group of about a dozen men are gathered around Saad Soliman who is leading a discussion on overcoming systemic barriers.


Salimon runs the nonprofit group Peace by Piece which seeks to help offenders find work as they transition back into society. The state has contracted him to bring his program to this new sober-living facility.


“It’s an adapted curriculum from a bunch of different kinds of modules," said Salimon. "So I call my program the Frankenstein—it’s quite literally pulled from all these different modules, these different manuals that have been endorsed by the department of labor or our workforce boards”


Soliman is teaching soft skills like interviewing and networking etiquette. He’s also connecting participants with employers and trying to equip them with the skills they need to retain work after they find it.


“We have a job readiness piece. We have a cognitive behavioral piece that really addresses the thought processes and the way that people think about work and how they approach work,” Salimon said.

The group this morning are not residents at the Refuge. Most are offenders involved in the Plummer Center work release program. They bus from that center in Wilmington to the Refuge on weekdays to work with Soliman or other members of his team. Today's group includes Jason McBroom.


“I’m from Sussex County but I had asked to get transferred up this way, because I knew there was a lot of different opportunities up this way, and I heard about the program once I was in the Plummer Center. Since I’ve been enrolled in it, it’s definitely creating opportunities to go down,” said McBroom.

McBroom struggled for years abusing heroin, but says he is hoping to use Soliman’s program to help resume his career in construction. He says the next step after he’s through at the Plummer Center might be to move into a sober living facility like the Refuge.

“I’m really, really, highly, highly thinking about it. I want to try to leave everything that was in the past in the past and I think this is going to be a good foundation point to start over. I really, really do,” said McBroom.

The Refuge has 30-beds available for male residents in recovery. There’s also a 20-bed facility for women nearby called the Leona Mae’s House.

Full-time residents have access to both Soliman's professional development program as well as mental health and addiction treatment with medical professionals. They can also accessmedication-assistedd treatment with saboxone or vivitrol.

The medical component is managed by Aquila of Delaware.


“And we’re not just talking about not just treatment for substance abuse disorder. We’re talking about life skills, we’re talking about socialization skills, we’re talking about working on a trauma, we’re talking about getting to the exact nature of why individuals have a substance use disorder.” said Aquila's Executive Director Michelle McIver.

McIver says the Refuge and Leona Mae’s house have added to the state’s treatment capacity and made it easier for people with substance abuse disorder to access long term treatment in Delaware.


“We’ve made room for individuals who probably, you know, not necessarily been able to get the services based on maybe not having a Social Security card at the time, or maybe not having [other things], you know. So these marginalized populations of people who haven’t been able to receive treatment now are able to come here,” said McIver.

State officials say about $1.2 million from Delaware’s budget went towards launching these new facilities. The rest of the cost is covered by federal grants from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

But Delaware’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Director Elizabeth Romero says the state is still strategizing how to fund sober living long-term.


“We’re really evaluating kind of sustainability and looking at different models and how they pay for it in Maryland and different places like that," said Romero. "So we’ll be working, again, towards a sustainability plan over the course of this.”

Maryland is currently funding 12 level-four recovery residences. And to receive state support, the facilities must adhere to the National Alliance for Recovery Residences (NARR) Quality Standards and renew its credentials through Maryland’s Mental Health Association each year.

For their work at the Refuge and Leona Mae’s House, Peace by Peace and Aquila were each issued short term contracts with the state of Delaware ending in June of this year.  Those contracts total about $275,000.

Saad Soliman says he hopes to continue to be a resource for the state after the contracts are up.

And Director Romero says the state plans to launch at least three more level-four facilities over the next two years, including a treatment center for women and their children and another integrated treatment home in Harrington operated by Connections.

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