This paper provides a perspective on the recent concept of recovery-oriented systems of care with respect to its origins in the past and its status in the present, prior to considering directions in which such systems might move in the future. Although influential in practice, this concept has yet to be evaluated empirically and has not been the object of a review. Recovery-oriented systems of care emerged from the efforts of persons with mental health and/or substance use disorders who advocated for services to go beyond the reduction of symptoms and substance use to promote a life in the community. Subsequent efforts were made to delineate the nature and principles of such services and those required of a system of such care. Coincident with the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration dropping reference to behavioral health in its revised definition of recovery, confusions and limitations began to emerge. Recovery appeared to refer more to a process of self-actualization for which an individual is responsible than to a process of healing from the effects of a behavioral health condition and associated stigma. In response, some systems are aiming to address social determinants of behavioral health conditions that transcend the scope of the individual and to develop a citizenship-oriented approach to promote community inclusion.
Funding for this initiative was made possible by grant no. 1H79TI083022 from SAMHSA. The views expressed in written conference materials or publications and by speakers and moderators do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services; nor does mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.