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.
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.
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
In 2023, the Arukah Institute opened a second Living Room
location in the city of Ottawa, Illinois with funding
from a state grant.
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
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
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.
Community engagement and volunteerism
Criminal justice system
Illicit drug use
Prescription drug misuse
Substance use and misuse
December 14, 2023
Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub,
Arukah Institute's Living Room Program [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at:
[Accessed 29 February 2024]
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