We are so excited this month to release our findings from the 2017 New York State Life in Recovery Survey. The results of this survey are particularly important for two reasons:

(1) We were able to model the questions based on Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol. Drugs and Health, released in 2016, which recommends recovery support services (RSS). The 2017 Survey questioned New Yorkers about the needs of RSS throughout the state
(2) We were also able to compare many of the questions and responses asked in the 2017 survey with the questions and responses from our 2016 Recovery Needs Survey. This comparison helps us understand where we are gaining momentum in terms of Recovery Capitol and where there are still gaps.

Summary of the 2017 Life in Recovery Survey

The 2017 FOR-NY Life in Recovery Survey was completed between September and November 2017. The 2017 Survey builds on the findings of the 2016 FOR-NY Recovery Needs Survey. The 2016 Recovery Needs Survey focused on two main objectives: (1) to identify the current strengths and priority needs to be addressed throughout the state related to addiction and recovery services and (2) to determine how well these priority needs are being met by organizations in order to identify the extent of gaps in treatment and recovery services. NYS invested $42 million in the 2017 budget for recovery services after the 2016 Recovery Needs survey was established. The 2017 FOR-NY Life in Recovery Survey was conducted to explore the success of those recovery support services, and to provide initial data necessary for the government and local communities to make informed decisions about where and how investments in these services should expand.

Surgeon General’s report recommendations

Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol. Drugs and Health, released in 2016, recommends recovery support services (RSS) such as mutual aid groups, peer professionals, recovery coaching, recovery housing, recovery community and outreach centers, recovery based education, and social recreations recovery infrastructures as evidence-based strategies to increasing the success rates for people in recovery. The report states that, “ongoing RSS in the community after completing treatment can be invaluable for helping individuals resist relapse and rebuild lives that may have been devastated by years of substance misuse.” Where RSS are used, the costs of outpatient care decreases, resulting in a decrease in cost per client and treatment expenses. This survey was created to measure the success and the need for these and other resources in NYS based on the findings of the Surgeon General’s report that RSS are a successful model for recovery and its recommendations to increase the use of RSS.

Survey Overview:

Of the 794 people who completed the survey, 54% of respondents identify as being in recovery, 46% of respondents report being a family member or friend of someone in recovery or someone with an addiction and 27% report being a family member or friend who has lost someone to an addiction. Fifty percent of respondents report working in the addiction/recovery field. The 27% of people who have lost someone to an addiction is a percentage that should resonate with readers. NYS is in the midst of what may be the most significant pandemic in modern history, and understanding what resources are needed to help people access recovery is not just timely, but of critical importance.

Important findings

Over 80% of respondents who identify as being in recovery from addiction believe their community needs more of the following resources:
• Substance Free Recreational Activities (90.93%)
• Timely Access to Addiction Treatment (89.77%)
• Fitness Focused Recovery Activities (88.84%)
• Safe Addiction Withdrawal Management/Monitoring (88.6%)
• Recovery Community Outreach Centers (88.14%)
• Education Based Recovery Services (86.98%)
• Peer Advocates (86.98%)
• Recovery Residences (85.51%)
• Resources for Family and Friends (84.65%)
• Access to Mental Health Services (84.42%)
• Employment Based Recovery Services (82.79%)
• Grassroots Advocacy for People in Recovery (82.33%)
• Recovery Community Organizations (81.65%)

Over 50% of respondents who identify as being in recovery in addiction indicate a need for more of the following resources:
• Secular Mutual Support Organizations (70.23%)
• Medication Assisted Recovery Services (68.84%)
• Faith Based Mutual Support Organizations (59.3%)
• 12-step Mutual Support Organization (52.56%)


The survey findings show improvements in awareness of services available to help people who struggle with addiction. The survey demonstrates that strides are being made in New York State from efforts of the Governor, to the NYS legislature, to the Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), to treatment providers, to prevention efforts, to peer professionals and family support navigators. Some improvements in outcomes between our 2016 and 2017 surveys are highly noticeable. One particular improvement between the 2016 and 2017 surveys is the awareness among survey participants of recovery support services. In the 2016 survey, it was clear there was a lack of awareness and understanding of recovery support services. The 2017 survey highlights that awareness appears to be increasing in the following ways:

  •  Peer Advocates: In the 2016 Survey, 45% (Respondents indicate an understanding of this resource). In the 2017 Survey, 87% (Respondents indicate an understanding of this resource)
  • Recovery Community Outreach Centers (RCOCs): In the 2016 Survey, 31% (“I don’t know about this resource). In the 2017 Survey, 7% (“I don’t know enough about this resource to comment”)
  • Recovery Community Organizations (RCOs): In the 2016 Survey, 33% (“I do not know about this resource”). In the 2017 Survey, 10% (“I don’t know enough about this resource to comment”)

Need for more recovery support services

Although we aimed to survey a geographically representative population, 15 counties have no representation in the results of this survey. Each of these counties has one or zero formal Recovery Support Services in the county (including RCO, RCOC, Youth Clubhouse, Peer Specialists, Family Navigators). This survey result shows a need to implement recovery support services in those counties in order to engage those populations.

Strength in Recovery

One finding that continues to be a strong sign of hope and strength in the recovery movement is the overwhelming showing of success and positivity from people in recovery. Since finding recovery, survey respondents indicate that they:
• Love their life (78%)
• Are highly educated (79%)
• Work and pay taxes (66%)
• Are community oriented (72%)
• Take care of their health: (72%)
• Are family-oriented: (74%)

This survey supports our experience at FOR-NY and is backed up by the findings of the Surgeon General’s 2016 report which states that for people in recovery, “fulfilling important roles and being civically engaged, such as paying taxes, holding a job, and being a responsible parent and neighbor, became much more common after their substance use ended. The chronic disease of addiction is deadly and recovery is the remedy. An investment in recovery will be paid back ten-fold to the community and is an extremely cost-efficient investment.

Thank you to Robert Pezzolesi, Robert Lillis and NYS OASAS for all your help in creating this survey and report.

Please take the time to review the report and use it in your advocacy efforts to show the strengths and gaps in recovery support services in New York State.