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Rural Health Information Hub

Arukah Institute's Living Room Program

  • Need: To address high rates of substance use in Princeton, Illinois and the surrounding area.
  • Intervention: The Arukah Institute, a local nonprofit organization providing mental health services, adapted a statewide model to provide support and a safe space for people in need of substance use resources.
  • Results: The Living Room program had 1,485 visits in its first year, with 100% of clients served by recovery support specialists.


The Arukah Institute of Healing, a nonprofit organization providing mental and behavioral health services in Princeton, Illinois, and nearby rural communities, saw a need for more local resources to address high rates of substance use in the region. Institute leaders partnered with local law enforcement to adapt a statewide model known as the Living Room, which typically centers on mental health treatment and resources, to focus on substance use instead. To give themselves more flexibility to adapt the model to their community's needs, program leaders sought federal funding rather than state funding and were awarded a four-year grant through the Healthy Rural Hometown Initiative, a track of the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) Rural Health Care Services Outreach Grant Program. The Princeton Living Room opened in 2022.

The Living Room is a physical space that resembles a real living room, with comfortable furniture, artwork, and common areas for people to socialize as well as private spaces. It is staffed by peer support specialists with lived experience in recovery, along with an on-call psychiatric advanced practice nurse.

Arukah Living Room

The Institute has partnered with law enforcement in five counties – a total of 17 departments – who can refer and drop people off at the Living Room when they encounter someone in crisis. Law enforcement periodically checks on members of the local homeless population, many of whom have been disqualified from using local shelters due to substance use, as well. The Living Room also accepts walk-ins and referrals from medical providers or other community agencies.

In 2023, the Arukah Institute opened a second Living Room location in the city of Ottawa, Illinois with funding from a state grant.

Services offered

All of the Living Room's services are free of cost and open to people who are experiencing a substance use and/or mental health crisis, or who are in recovery. Recovery support specialists, all of whom have lived experience with substance use and/or mental illness, are available to help de-escalate crises and assist visitors in establishing goals, building wellness plans that incorporate other community resources, and developing coping skills. Harm reduction materials, such as clean needles, safe smoking supplies, and condoms, are available at the Living Room. Wound care and STI testing are also available as needed via the on-call psychiatric advanced practice nurse.

Beyond substance use- and mental health-specific services, the Living Room additionally offers basic services and resources including showers, laundry, hygiene kits, food, and assistance finding shelter for unhoused visitors. The Living Room also has four vehicles that staff use to give people rides as needed.


The Living Room had 1,485 visits – an average of 124 visits per month – in its first year of operation, with 100% of clients served by recovery support staff with lived experience. Food was provided to 512 visitors, toiletries to 169 visitors, clothing to 111 visitors, laundry services to 64 visitors, and 184 visitors took showers.


Staffing the Living Room with people who have lived experience in recovery has been an ongoing challenge for the Institute, as some community members in recovery have been hesitant to share their experience with others due to a sense of stigma or shame. Staff recruitment has largely occurred through word of mouth and mutual connections in the community, including through local law enforcement officers who have relationships with people in recovery.

Gaining the trust of people experiencing substance use challenges, including people who may have experienced provider stigma by medical professionals or other community leaders in the past, has also been a barrier. To engage with and meet the needs of a more diverse population, the Institute has hired bilingual staff and aims for its staff to represent the community. The program also has an advisory team that includes people with lived substance use experience.


Living Room leaders encourage other organizations launching similar programs to carefully consider funding sources and how to make their program financially sustainable, as some funding sources may offer more flexibility than others.

Having buy-in from community partners who are already addressing substance use, such as law enforcement, allows for warm handoffs and has been crucial to the success of the Living Room.

Finally, program leaders say talking to people in active substance use gave them valuable insight into what kinds of services were most needed. By conducting focus groups of people in active substance use, the Institute learned of some seemingly small but important things that could help people in their recovery, such having a reliable and judgment-free ride home from treatment from someone who isn't actively using substances themselves.

Contact Information

Sarah Scruggs, PhD, Chief Executive Officer
Arukah Institute of Healing
The Living Room - Arukah Institute of Healing

Behavioral health
Community engagement and volunteerism
Criminal justice system
Illicit drug use
Mental health
Prescription drug misuse
Substance use and misuse

States served

Date added
December 14, 2023

Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2023. Arukah Institute's Living Room Program [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: [Accessed 24 June 2024]

Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.