Hope House, Inc.: Healing, Innovation and Connection Thriving under One Roof

The substance use disorder treatment center has come up with innovative ways of caring for their residents during the pandemic. 

May 13, 2020

Hope House logo
Hope House was informally founded in 1956 by the late Jack Donahue and incorporated in 1965. It's the oldest residential treatment program in MA.
Since the COVID-19 health crisis struck Massachusetts, Hope House has shifted operations at its facilities almost overnight to continue to keep doors open to those in need and keep operations for residents running smoothly. Every day, President and CEO Allison Burns sends an email to residents and staff, sharing the status of how everyone in their community is doing, as well as sharing resources and new policies and procedures.

Hope House provides individualized treatment to those living with a substance use disorder (SUD). Individuals receive education and support allowing them to pursue their life interests with families and employers, and to be self-sufficient members of their communities. In addition, Hope House works with families and the community at large to educate them on current information on the disease of addiction. During the pandemic, treatment plans at Hope House have stayed intact but taken on some innovative forms. Some of these outside-the-box methods include expressive art contests from rooms, telehealth consultations through tablets provided by the facility, and socially distanced group meetings. Staff have even created a quarantine unit in case someone—resident or staff—contracts the virus, along with procedures to care for that individual.

Hope House supports its residents in ways that go beyond their time in treatment. Three years ago, Mike, an alum, was looking for employment and he decided to reach out to his trusted Hope House family. They were able to offer him a job and today, he is the Director of Facilities. Now, as Hope House staff have been strategizing the new path forward amid the COVID crisis, Mike has played an instrumental role in designing facilities protocols for the organization, which have been so successful they have been shared with the state. Mike’s understanding of Hope House operations is unique, having been a long-term resident and then on staff for three years before this public health crisis. Burns says, “Among the new procedures is ensuring that at every staff meeting there is a representative of every department,” and adds that it is “rewarding for him to be part of something bigger than himself, and see the warm reception of his ideas from staff as well as from the state.”

For residents like Mike who graduate from the treatment center, departure from Hope House can come with a mix of emotions, one being fear, and that is even more heightened in the current crisis. Mass Health reports that the chance of relapse for those who struggle with addiction is much higher due to additional stressors the pandemic poses for individuals. Burns recounts a recent touching moment when a graduating resident was departing. When he was exiting, she recounts, “All of a sudden, Steve*

stopped in the atrium of the building and loudly announced, ‘I’ve never felt more healthy than when I was here and I hope I can come back and visit, thank you all.’” Steve’s wish to stay connected to his Hope House family is an idea that the staff are actively working to execute through Zoom alumni meetings. Burns views all the new safety and operations protocols as opportunities for growth and connection for residents, staff and alumni, and is moved by the ways she has seen people across the board step up and appreciate one another.

*Not his real name

This is one in a series of stories about grantees of the Boston Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund. These Greater Boston nonprofits are on the front-lines of our community's response to this crisis. While we are all struggling to cope with the hardships of the coronavirus, these organizations, their leaders and their staff are serving the most vulnerable among us. Boston Indicators, the Boston Foundation’s Research Center, is providing valuable data and analysis for these stories. Visit tbf.org for more on the COVID-19 Response Fund.