Sixteen buildings on a block of Morris Street in Albany serve as a backdrop for a quiet success story.
The homes, which are in the Pine Hills neighborhood, are owned by Second Chance Opportunities (SCO), a not-for-profit organization that offers people in recovery a range of wraparound services. SCO was founded in 2001 when a group of people who knew first-hand about the barriers people in recovery face started working together to help others overcome those barriers.
Fast forward to 2023. Second Chance Opportunities now provides a continuum of care for people in recovery: the sober residences on Morris Street, the opportunity to work to pay rent and access to a recovery community center with peer counseling services.
“Substance abuse disorder is a disease of the brain that wants us dead,” SCO executive director Kellie Roe told Capital Tonight.
Roe was once addicted to cocaine and then alcohol, but has remained abstinent since the mid-1990s. But when she first began her recovery, she couldn’t hold a job, cook her own food or open a bank account.
“I didn’t have any of the adulting skills,” Roe recalled. “So now I’m 30 years old, I’m deeply involved in the social groups, AA and NA; I’m going to meetings. I’m going to therapy. But I can’t balance a check book. Just because I had stopped using didn’t give me that skill.”
Second Chance Opportunities saw a need for sober housing among people leaving treatment and started offering recovery-focused housing rentals on Morris Street in Albany. More than 20 years later, it has expanded its services.
“We walk people through every step (of recovery), and it really doesn’t matter what they need. If it’s child support arrears, if it’s checkbook, food shopping, how to cook — just all of those things,” she said.
At the heart of Second Chance Opportunities is an opportunity to work for a janitorial service with state contracts through the New York State Industries for the Disabled (NYSID).
In Albany, the prevailing wage is $21.60 an hour, which means full-time employees of the janitorial service can earn $2,600 per month. The rent for the sober housing units on Morris Street is $600 per month, everything included.
“So now you’ve got $2,000 per month to not only feed yourself and clothe yourself, now you can buy a car, get out of debt; all of those things,” explained Roe.
Second Chance Opportunities, which has an annual budget of $250,000, is one of 36 recovery community centers around the state receiving money from the opioid settlement funds via OASAS.
Each recovery community center will receive $286,000 per year over the next two years.
“We’re going to do some capital improvements. We’re going to hire more staff. We’re going to do more of what we do,” Roe responded when asked how SCO would use the funds.
SCO will also invest in a program called Scoot, which drives people to appointments.
When asked what happens after the funding runs out in two years, Roe shared a very specific request.
“I’m hoping that Governor Hochul and (OASAS) Commissioner Cunningham are going to work on certifying recovery community centers. If they certify the centers, that gives us the ability to bill for peer services,” she said.
Outpatient treatment facilities like Hope House are required to have peers on site, and they can bill Medicaid, Medicare and other insurance for work that those peers do.
Recovery community centers cannot — yet.
“We have nine peers on staff,” according to Roe. “Every single person who walks through our doors is assigned a recovery coach. Everyone in housing has a recovery coach. Everyone on our employment contracts has one. They’re a professional cheerleader.”
According to Robert Kent, president of Kent Strategic Advisors, LLC and the former general counsel for OASAS, certification would create another revenue stream for Second Chance Opportunities and organizations like it.
“When we moved addiction treatment services into Medicaid Managed Care, it opened up the opportunity to license entities, such as recovery community centers, which would then allow them to bill for services provided by their Certified Peer Recovery Advocates,” said Kent, who works with Second Chance Opportunities. “It is great that the state is using opioid settlement funds to support the recovery community centers for the next two years. We should use that time to move forward with licensing recovery community centers so that we can sustain these essential programs into the future.”
Just a few blocks from Morris Street, in Washington Park, this Saturday from 11 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., Second Chance Opportunities will be hosting “Recovery in the Park,” a celebration of people in recovery. The event is free, open to the public and will include food and games for children. For more information visit, https://www.scoalbany.com/annualevents.
More on Second Chance Opportunities can be found here.