Use of Mutual Help Recovery Houses by Latino Migrant Laborers with Substance Use Disorders

  • Victor Garcia, Distinguished University Professor and director of MARTI, and Anna Pagano, associate research scientist at the Prevention Research Center in Berkeley, California, received funding from the National Institute of Health for their R21 Grant Application, “Mutual-Help Recovery Houses for Mexican and Central American Migrant Laborers with Substance Use Disorders.” The project, which is currently in its third year, was submitted through the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

    The project focuses on exploring the structure and practices of transnational recovery programs. More specifically, it focuses on anexos, a mutual-help substance abuse recovery model that originated in Mexico. The anexo provides affordable treatment where residents can stay for long periods. A structured living arrangement and nightly AA meetings are at the core of the treatment program. In the United States, little is known about anexos despite their widespread use in Latino immigrant communities. The project also focuses on how and why Latino migrant laborers access these programs.

    Garcia and Pagano are employing ethnographic research methods to gather data at three anexos located in urban Northern California. Methods used include participant observation at the three anexos in addition to semi-structured interviews with anexo residents, directors, and assistant directors.

    During the first year of research, Garcia and Pagano have found that the most common pathway into anexos was direct referral from family and friends. In addition, none of the residents that were interviewed were court-mandated to treatment. Most residents chose anexos because they did not have access to the formal treatment system (due to lack of documentation) however, some residents were US citizens or permanent residents. They also found benefits of anexos included cultural familiarity, use of Spanish language, affordability, ability to work while in treatment, and peer support. During the second year of research, they followed up on their initial findings. In this last year, they are publishing their results.