The Recovery Community contributes vastly to the at large community by way of gainful employment, civic engagement and raising healthy families. It is vastly important to continue to provide the evidence-based life-saving programs that are already instituted in the state to continue lifting communities up and supporting those who are currently struggling with addiction, if perhaps in new, innovative ways given the COVID-19 situation. This summary report will highlight the findings from the survey – data taken directly from the recovery community – and will offer recommendations on how to move forward into our new normal without leaving our progress behind.

See full RCO Survey on the Impacts of Covid-19 presentation here

The Survey of the COVID-19 Impact on Recovery Community Organizations was distributed by way of mass email to an audience of approximately 8000 subscribers on April 2, 2020. On April 7, 2020, FOR-NY distributed to the survey to target groups of known recovery advocates and administrators of recovery community organization, recovery community outreach centers and youth clubhouses from each of the 10 Regional Economic Development Councils throughout the state. By Monday April 13, 113 people had responded to the survey representing all 10 Regional Economic Development Councils of the state and FOR-NY began to analyze the data.

All Regional Economic Development Councils were represented with New York City representing the highest percentage of respondents
(29%). Fifty-six percent of respondents reported as being affiliated with a recovery community organization and there was a nearly even breakdown of respondents from Urban (38%); Suburban (31%) and Rural (34%) communities. Sixty-nine percent of respondents identified as “white;” 20% Black or African American; 8% Hispanic or Latinx; 1% Native American and 1% other. Ninety percent of respondents were ages 30 and older and 52% of respondents identified as male and 45% as female and 3% as prefer not to say or prefer to self -describe. Eighty-six percent of respondents identified themselves as either a person in recovery (70%) or a family member in recovery (16%) or a combination of the two, which shows these survey results give a credible description of the recovery community as a whole.

The top current concerns listed for recovery programs were as follows:
1) Concerns for recovery population (fear of recurrence or overdose; concern for those still struggling or in early recovery; lack of access to Narcan; concern for those in crisis needing immediate help; Concern for denied services; Lack of hope or depression; heightened risk of those with addiction contracting COVID-19; financial struggle)
2) Concerns with technology (lack of access; lack of trust to online meeting format)
3) Concerns over isolation of recovery community
4) Recovery Center Specific Concerns (loss of volunteers/participants; concerns over evaluation of services, fundraising and maintaining or finding new grants; concerns of closing spaces and concerns about ability to provide protective equipment to staff)
5) Post Pandemic (respondents also shared concerns about returning to “new normal” following the pandemic and a stigma around COVID-19 survivor)

The top long-term concerns were as follows:
1) Returning to a new normal (getting volunteers, groups and programs back up and relevant again; will people return?)
2) Finances (lack of financial capital in local communities; concerns with ability to fundraise; concern that OASAS may not be able to continue funding; will funders understand limitations?)
3) RCO Operations (keeping staff safe and well; getting the RCO back up and running; planning for future events; more people in need of supports in light of crisis but fewer staff to help; challenges with outreach; meeting mission with a virtual platform; data collection and again will funders understand limitations?)
4) Concerns for Recovery Population (concerns about recurrences and overdoses; COVID delaying personal goals for those seeking recovery; inability to access services; digression in physical health)

In spite of navigating the multitude of concerns and challenges that RCO’s are currently facing, many reported that they are still offering services, while others report a loss of participants.

Eleven percent of respondents reported “gaining participants,” 43% of respondents reported maintaining participants and 46% of respondents reported losing participants amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

Of those who gained or maintained participants, respondents believe this increase or maintenance is due to providing online meeting space, an increase in outreach, and once closed individuals are now reconnecting. Some individuals are now able to attend who before could not make appointments.

Of those who reported maintaining or losing participants, respondents believe this is due to new challenges with outreach (when job is to go into the community and now cannot do this); challenges with technology – whether access or ability; and other priorities getting in the way of attending recovery services.

Top reported programs and services still being offered during COVID-19 Pandemic:
• Peer Recovery Support including group work with peers and recovery coaching, family supports
• Referrals- to Treatment; Mental and Physical Health Providers; housing, food, assurance wireless program
• Mutual Aid meetings including but not limited to 12 Step/Mutual Aid/One Recovery/Harm Reduction/SMART Recovery,  Support/Loss Group; Bible Study via Zoom
• Recreational activities including but not limited to; Zoom chats; Facebook Live check-ins; coffee and chat; Jackbox and Zoom; movie night; visual art, meditation, book discussions, wellness activities, yoga; Snapchat and Whatsap with youth; and more
• Peer Network/Support Group

In spite of it all, RCO’s are still resilient and still willing to offer help to ensure Recovery Community Organizations remain a mainstay.

Forty-two percent of survey respondents were willing to offer their time and talents to support the rest of the recovery community during this crisis, particularly regarding offering online supports. When asked how can FOR-NY continue to support the Recovery Community through the COVID-19 crisis the top 3 responses were
1) Doing a good job; people are happy that we are still available
2) Continue sharing resources and providing training
3) Continue advocacy (now more than ever!)

We agree, more advocacy is needed now more than ever to further our journey in mitigating the overdose epidemic as well as ensuring “recovery-oriented systems of care” during and post COVID-19 pandemic.


Based on the information collected FOR-NY is offering the following seven recommendations:

1) The need for continued advocacy in the Recovery Community: A top concern for respondents to the survey was that services including housing, treatment, recovery wraparound services and transportation will be cut due to “higher priority issues receiving those limited funds.” Recovery advocates must be vigilant to not give up the life saving, evidence based programming that we have fought so hard to build. Additionally, we should continue advocating for more services as these services are needed more now than ever, especially considering the mental health and substance use disorder ramifications from the orders to isolate and heightened stress from the COVID-19 crisis.

2) Continue to make telehealth accessible and covered by insurance carriers.

3) Increase implementation of self-care strategies for Recovery Workforce: The recovery workforce is already under stress. It is time now for self-care to be mandatory in the workforce to promote health and wellness and prevent burnout recurrence, self-harm, or worst of all, suicide.

4) Provide funding needs to continue to provide online forums for recovery support services. Recovery services are still being provided through online formats including peer supports, referrals and recreational activities. Continue to support these services.

5) Provide funding for recovery support services hotline in each county. One program that was effective before the crisis and is continuing to be effective during the crisis are hotlines to connect individuals and families with treatment and recovery wrap around services. These services are safe during the COVID-19 crisis and should be modeled after programs that already exist in Long Island, Columbia County and Rensselaer County

6) Provide funding to create and implement “return to work” plans for recovery centers and youth clubhouses. Organizations are going to need support in order to keep their staff and participants safe when programming starts to return to normal. Experts should be convened in order to create plans which programs may weigh in on, but not be expected to carry the load of creating such plans all on their own.

7) Treatment and Recovery Wraparound services must not be eliminated. Patient advocacy – particularly that provided by the NYS Ombuds program-is necessary in order to ensure those who need services are still able to access those services.

“Recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs is real. It’s achievable, sustainable and beautiful.”

“Recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs is real. It’s achievable, sustainable and beautiful.”