News & Stories

$3.4 million in state funding strengthens addiction recovery housing in San Antonio

By Courtney Friedman

UT Health San Antonio’s grant will help facilities that house young adults 18-25

To watch the full KSAT interview, click here.

SAN ANTONIO – Finding safe, sober homes for young adults in recovery can be tough, but it’s crucial to end the cycle of addiction.

Trauma started early in 18-year-old Brianna’s life.

“I was adopted at a very early age of 8. Supposedly, I was sexually abused as a little girl and taken away,” she said.

Brianna struggled with that trauma, even after being adopted into a safe home.

She then decided to leave that home and go out on her own. That’s when she fell into some dangerous situations.

“I was pretty much on the verge of being homeless, ending up in motel rooms with men and just different, very unsafe places,” she said.

Brianna’s parents found Deborah’s House, a transitional home for women recovering from different addictions.

The house, run by Corazon Ministries, is one of several transitional houses across San Antonio, but many are not certified at a national standard. That’s where UT Health San Antonio’s “Be Well Texas” program comes in. It’s a program for people seeking help with substance use and/or mental illness. The program specializes in patients struggling with opioid addiction.

The Texas Department of Health and Human Services awarded Be Well Texas $3.4 million to strengthen recovery housing for young adults aged 18-25.

“We wanted to offer a higher level of care. So there’s an organization called NARR, which is a National Association of Recovery Residences, and they set some standards of what those levels of care are,” said Richard Hamner, the clinical research program manager at UT Health San Antonio’s Be Well Texas program.

With the grant money, Be Well Texas will cover costs to operate homes that are certified as “level 2″ or “level 3″ on NARR’s four-level service scale. NARR is the most widely referenced national standard for the operation of recovery residences, working with and supporting 30 state affiliate organizations.

“Level one is like an Oxford house, which is a self-run, democratically-run home. There’s a level two and a level three, which does provide more structure. So you have a house manager, and you would even have counseling services and that type of thing on site,” Hamner explained.

“Level two means that we have a recovery support peer specialist on staff, which is me,” Deborah’s House Director Ashley O’Leary said.

The new state funding provided O’Leary with extra training and certification. She said the new certification has offered structure and support to her team, which is necessary when handling such vulnerable clients.

“A lot of them are suffering from substance use disorder or mental health concerns. They’ve completed treatment, they’re coming out of jail, or we have one right now that was currently homeless at Haven for Hope that just moved in,” O’Leary said.

Her assistant director at the house is also in the process of getting trained and certified.

“We have counselors, we have mentors, we have classes we go to, and I love them,” Brianna said. “They’re directors, but they’re friends, and they’re family, and they’re counselors all at the same time.”

Similar funding will cover training and administrative costs for more than 40 transitional houses in the state, with a total of 440 beds.

“Those life skills may include employment readiness, GED education, healthy eating, home management and budgeting. And the homes also provide other essential social support,” Hamner said.

Hamner and O’Leary both know the importance of those things. They are both in long-term recovery as well. Hamner has been to inpatient and outpatient facilities, and O’Leary lived in Deborah’s House when it was established in 2012.

“Living in a home where everyone in there is dealing with the same challenges and the same issues, and they can mentor each other and they can kind of work through those for those programs, that’s just a huge thing,” Hamner said.

With the elevated structure from the funding, the hope is that these current organizations will be able to open even more houses.

“We definitely want to be able to expand. We’re looking into some different properties as a board and trying to grow our organization,” O’Leary said.

Brianna has friends that would like to get into similar housing, but many transitional homes are at capacity. She hopes more homes will open so people across San Antonio can find the recovery and safety she has.

“Deborah’s House is a definite safe haven for me. I feel loved every time I walk in here. To know that other people care makes us care about ourselves and makes us want to keep going and have a will,” Brianna said.

The program at Deborah’s House offers free rent for a month or month and a half while clients find a job and set out goals. Once they find a job, they only have to pay $400 in rent while finishing the recovery program that lasts anywhere from nine to 18 months.

“I don’t have to worry about all the light bills. I can worry about what I need to worry about right now and get done what I can so that I can stand up again on my own,” Brianna said.

Brianna now has a job and is getting her GED. She is finally emerging from darkness to see how bright her future can be.

People ages 18 through 25 with a substance use or mental health diagnosis can qualify for this program. For more information, contact Be Well Texas at (888) 85-BeWell, (888) 852-3935.