The Department of Mental Health has received inquiries regarding Oxford House from Mississippi Senator Will Longwitz. DMH has responded to Senator Longwitz with a letter addressing the issues he has raised. The full response to Senator Longwitz is available to read by clicking here.
Oxford House CEO and Co-Founder Paul Molloy also responded to Senator Longwitz. His full response is available to read by clicking here.
What is Oxford House?
An Oxford House is a democratically run, self-supporting and drug free home. Oxford House, Inc. is a publicly supported, non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation that is the umbrella organization providing a network that connects all Oxford Houses and allocates resources to expand the Oxford House concept.
Each Oxford House receives a charter from Oxford House, Inc. (OHI), which includes three conditions: 1) the group must be democratically self-run following the procedures of the Oxford House Manual, 2)the group must be financially self-supporting and pay all its own bills, and 3) the group must immediately expel any resident who returns to using alcohol or illicit drugs.
The first Oxford House was established in 1975 in Silver Spring, Maryland, and they are now found in nearly every state in the country. Since 2013, 18 Oxford Houses have opened in Mississippi: eight for men, seven for women, and one for women and children.
Why did the Mississippi Department of Mental Health begin working with Oxford House?
Oxford House is the only sober living house model listed on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP). All interventions in this registry have met NREPP’s minimum requirements for review and have been independently assessed and rated for Quality of Research and Readiness for Dissemination.
Mississippi’s Statewide Strategic Plan for Performance and Budgetary Success, Building a Better Mississippi, calls for state agencies to focus resources with programs that were identified through evidence-based research.
What is the Mississippi Department of Mental Health’s relationship with Oxford House?
The Mississippi Department of Mental Health (DMH) has provided federal grants made available by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) that serve two purposes. The grants provide seed money for Oxford Houses to be established, and they provide Oxford House, Inc. with funding to employ Outreach Workers.
What is the seed money?
The seed money is a one-time distribution of $4,000 to the Oxford House charters by Oxford House, Inc. and is used to cover the first month’s rent, utility deposits, and may be used to purchase staple items such as cleaning supplies, paper towels, tissues, etc. This funding is administered from a revolving loan account and is repaid by the individual charters, generally within 24 months.
Who are the Outreach Workers and what do they do?
Outreach Workers are employees of OHI who find suitable houses to rent, educate potential residents about sober living options, and teach residents the system of operations. Outreach Workers also help keep existing houses on track by organizing chapters, workshops and state associations. Outreach Workers monitor the Houses for compliance with the Oxford House model. Mississippi Outreach Workers are under the direct supervision of a Regional Outreach Manager who answers directly to the COO of Oxford House, Inc.
What level of supervision is maintained at an Oxford House?
Oxford Houses are homes, not treatment facilities. DMH does not regulate homes. No direct therapeutic services are provided in Oxford Houses. However, as previously mentioned, the federal grants administered by DMH do fund Oxford House outreach workers who monitor Oxford Houses for compliance with the Oxford House model.
Some Oxford Houses conduct random testing, some conduct for-cause testing, and some do both. All Houses in Mississippi conduct screening with the frequency and criteria determined by the peers in the individual homes. Drug tests are kept on site at all locations to be used when peers determine it is warranted.
Drug tests are not the only indicators of drug use, as behavioral symptoms can be just as telling. Drug testing does occur at the homes and positive drug tests do result in immediate eviction from an Oxford House. Behavioral signs that indicate substance use or other behavioral issues can cause an individual to be evicted as well.
OHI says the philosophy behind the Oxford House model is three-fold: 1) self-help is the bedrock of recovery, 2) disciplined democracy is key to living together, and 3) self-support builds efficacy in sobriety comfortable enough to avoid relapse.
Who lives in an Oxford House?
Anyone recovering from alcohol or substance use disorders can apply to get into any Oxford House by filling out an application and being interviewed by the existing members of the House. Since Oxford Houses are democratically-run, an individual is only admitted if 80 percent of the existing residents approve. The data DMH staff compiled using OHI monthly reports indicates presentations at behavioral health providers are by far the primary means of outreach for potential residents, with 85 percent of presentations in 2014 taking place at behavioral health providers. Sex offenders are not allowed to reside in Oxford Houses in Mississippi, and the Oxford House World Council suggests to all of its charters that they avoid accepting individuals convicted of a sexual offense.
There must be at least six residents in an Oxford House, and there are houses for men, houses for women, and houses for both women and children.