Being in long-term recovery from substance use disorders, Anthony Grimes is uniquely qualified for his position as executive director of VARR.
A certified peer recovery specialist, Grimes has years of direct experience working with people in recovery. In 2016, he launched his first certified recovery residence and in 2017, co-founded a Richmond recovery residence foundation called Willing Addicts Recovering (WAR) with 21 beds. In seven years, it has grown to house 103 certified beds, reflecting the growing need for housing. “People once thought substance use disorder was a moral failing,” Grimes says. “Science has since proven that addiction, an official AMA [American Medical Association] designation, is a disease of the brain.”
By 2019, Grimes was hired as the first full-time, paid executive director of VARR, the state affiliate of the National Alliance for Recovery Residences (NARR). The organization certifies recovery residences throughout Virginia that meet their own national standards. During Grimes’ tenure, Virginia’s group has more than doubled the number of certified recovery residence operators and bed capacity. As of early 2023, Virginia has 1,170 certified beds. “There’s a misconception about needs because everyone looks for solutions on how to stop deaths,” Grimes says. “It’s important to remember that the best tool to fight it is to invest in recovery.”
Using additional funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, VARR was able to address the disparity regarding who was being served by recovery residence services. Small rural counties such as Russell and Dickinson counties are now getting much needed beds. In 2020, 80% of recovery beds went to white people. ‘We had to ask, why are we not serving minority populations in recovery?” Grimes recalls. “For minority populations, the biggest barrier to recovery was financial. With the ARPA [American Rescue Plan Act] funding, the populations we were able to serve are 54% Caucasian and 46% non-Caucasian.”
Just this year, Grimes co-authored a research paper with leading addiction recovery researcher, Dr. David Best, and was asked to serve on the NARR board of directors.
“Recovery residences give a mother back her child, a friend back their friend, and a brother or sister back their sibling,” he says. “But the impact on those individuals’ lives has the greatest impact on our community at large.”