Congress has just mandated that health insurance companies must cover mental illness and substance abuse with the same standards they use to pay for other illnesses (The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (PL 107- 1434)). Passage of this legislation is, in some ways, a step “back to the future” since many health insurance companies in the 1970s and early 1980s covered addiction treatment as they covered payment for other illnesses. Such reimbursement was restricted or eliminated in the late 1980s and early 1990s because of treatment industry excesses (e.g., inappropriate admissions, excessive lengths of stay) and growing alarm about patterns of chronic relapse and treatment recycling. It is important in the face of this new legislation that the treatment field avoids replication of this earlier history. The use of Oxford Houses and other non-clinical, peer-based recovery support services can enhance the likelihood of recovery without relapse and can help prevent the future loss of the parity that has just been legislatively restored.
Bill White reflects on the historical significance of sober housing (and recovery support services in general):