Community Outreach: Overview & Introduction
Word-of-mouth is the key to keeping beds filled, and this is accomplished by making sure the homes we offer to our residents are safe and healthy environments for recovery. Our focus should always be on supporting our residents and addressing concerns quickly. Beyond this, community outreach is your way of reaching the broader recovery community to spread the word about what Vanderburgh House does and what you can offer to support those in early recovery. A good reputation, combined with continuous outreach to the broader recovery community, should keep residents coming through your door.
Referral Sources & Placement Professionals
Placement professionals. These are individuals who work in organizations which refer residents directly to sober houses. These would include clinical organizations (rehab, detox, CSS, TSS, etc.), legal organizations (jail pre-release, probation and parole departments, public defenders, etc.), and other organizations like halfway houses and residential programs. The Placement Professional could be a case worker, transitional support liaison, director, parole officer, or other position in one of these organizations. Remember that in Massachusetts and other states, only homes certified by the local NARR-affiliate can accept referrals from state-funded organizations.
We cannot stress enough the importance of maintaining strong relationships with Placement Professionals. Their referrals keep Vanderburgh House open. You must strengthen your relationships with primary referral sources at every opportunity.
Marketing efforts. Our marketing and outreach efforts focus on Placement Professionals. General marketing of Vanderburgh House through web and social media supports our referral relationships, but isn’t our focus in terms of marketing resources. 80% of residents come from either word-of-mouth or primary referral sources like placement professionals. Marketing and outreach must focus on these sources.
- Placement professionals are often too busy to research a home and often go off word-of-mouth and habit
- Placement professionals may be too busy to be bothered working hard to transition patients to housing
- It is easy for a disgruntled resident to harm our reputation by speaking poorly of us, always be mindful of reputational risks!
Categories of Referral Sources
Clinical Referral Sources
CSS & TSS programs
Clinics & hospitals
Outpatient treatment programs
Most of these organizations directly serve those in recovery, but some organizations like hospitals and clinics serve clients with other needs. These organizations are typically large, bureaucratical, and political. The key players in these organizations are transitional support personnel and caseworkers, the placement professionals. The goal of outreach is to create a situation where the placement professionals think of Vanderburgh House first when recommending a sober home.
Clinical Priorities. In the context of transitioning their clients, placement professionals are interested in finding the right next steps for their clients, but often don’t have the time or energy to dedicate to a thorough search. They want to make sure that the next step for their client (i.e. the sober house or independent living arrangement) will be the right fit for their client: safe, secure, affordable, and aligned with their recovery.
Some may feel pressure to refer to clear beds and make room for new entrants and may spend almost no time securing next-step housing for their residents. However, some organizations employ staff (usually called transitional support professionals) specifically to help clients find housing after treatment/prison, etc. Organizational structures vary greatly, as do the roles and resources available to caseworkers.
Legal System Referral Sources
Department of Corrections: Jails, prerelease programs, parole, probation, court officers
Department of Children and Families
The legal system is another core group of primary referral organization. The key personnel are managers of departments of officers and administrators, able to have departments refer applicants.
Department of Corrections: In Massachusetts, the Department of Corrections (DOC) oversees all prisons, jails, prerelease programs, half-way houses, etc. They have a database of transitional housing accessible to all of the individuals in their subsidiary programs – specific to the DOC. Maintaining relationships with those who run the database is of utmost importance. Your state likely has a similar agency tasked with overseeing the prison system.
Drug Courts: Separate from DOC, drug court is a court session which takes place on a regular basis at many court houses. The sessions are usually an hour or two long, and individuals sit in front of the judge to discuss their personal situations, etc. Each district will have a different schedule. Judges and other court personnel who work on drug courts have a collaborative, rehabilitation-focused mindset, working together to help those they serve succeed. Make yourself known and available as a resource to those who work in the drug court, even up to the judges themselves if possible.
Probation Departments: Probation departments in local courthouses are good places to leave marketing materials and speak with officers. You can simply show up and ask to speak with the probation officers, let them know who you are and what you do, and leave them with materials.
Other Referral Sources
Peer recovery centers
Other sober houses and community organizations
Other referral sources and residential programs are good networking. If our homes are full, we can refer to them; likewise, they to us.
Note: Be wary of groups of applicants from the same house. A clique coming over from one halfway house may create interpersonal issues with current residents. Also, be mindful of your referral source. Not all halfway houses are equal. The best programs take clients primarily from medical treatment, but others will accept almost anyone who walks in off the street. Always screen applicants carefully according to our standards