Recovery Community Organizations
Written by Robert Ashford, MSW, PhD-C
Published on November 23, 2020
Recovery Community Organizations (RCOs) are organizations which represent and serve the community of people in recovery. They are non-profit and independent of other entities, although certain funding mechanisms may influence their missions. RCOs are usually formed organically by people in recovery and their allies to provide non-clinical peer-provided services to the community. These organizations usually follow a typical nonprofit structure, with a board of directors, administration and supportive staff, including people in recovery (peers) and volunteers. In recent years, these have taken the form of peer-based recovery support services as well as community education and advocacy. RCOs serve as hubs of recovery activity, drop-in centers or safe havens for people in recovery to access recovery support and participate in recovery-oriented activities.
Authenticity of voice and representation, especially of the marginalized and underserved, is valued by RCOs and essential to their relevance. An RCO must hold space for all pathways in recovery and make recovery more accessible to all by removing barriers and brokering both traditional and non-traditional resources. RCOs typically have a group of community stakeholders with an interest or investment in recovery. This group serves to inform the rest of the organizational structure and programmatic design of the needs and preferences of the recovery community. RCOs should constantly evolve and respond to the voices of the community, and should have established procedures for involving the individuals being served in decision-making processes.
The RCO’s structure and services can vary based on the needs of the community being served. There are statewide as well as localized RCOs, and each one functions differently. Some RCOs are geared toward providing peer-based recovery support services, and have peer recovery support specialists to provide individual recovery support. These RCOs often provide free or low-cost meeting space for mutual aid recovery support groups, especially those pathways which may not be as well-established in the surrounding community. Other RCOs are more focused on policy advocacy and public education, such as eliminating stigma, increasing access to treatment, and advancing healthcare equity.
RCOs increase recovery capital at the individual, family, and community levels by fulfilling their missions to advance the cause of recovery. Learn more about how you can support your local recovery community organization by locating one nearest you at Faces & Voices of Recovery.