Three United States senators have joined together to combat the proliferation of sober homes.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren D-MA, Orrin Hatch R-UT and Marco Rubio R-FL have written a two-page letter to the Government Accountability Office requesting answers to four questions.
How many sober living homes are there in the United States? How many individuals do they serve and what are the characteristics of this population?
How are sober living homes regulated at the federal, state and local level?
What is the range of services offered by sober living homes? Are sober living homes being used to expand the available resources to support rectory from substance abuse disorder? What is known about the effectiveness of services offered through sober living homes?
How do sober living homes and their patients interact with Medicaid and other federally funded healthcare programs? What impact does this have on Medicaid costs and on the effectiveness and Medicaid-funded grid and alcohol-abuse treatment programs?
Mayor Cary Glickstein announced the letter at a recent commission meeting.
Here are his thoughts on the letter:
“The senators’ letter to the GAO is significant. It demonstrates this is no parochial problem; that sober home abuses are national in scope and the myriad issues noted in their letter now has the attention of highly visible U.S. senators that could not be more ideologically different, but appear united in crafting solutions for this problem. I am also hopeful such a high-ranking, expanded spotlight on this problem will energize HUD and Dept. of Justice officials already tasked to make substantive modifications to their Joint Statement.”
State representatives also submit letter to GOA
Congresswoman Lois Frankel D-FL and Congressman Chris Stewart R-UT sent a bipartisan letter to the GAO, Congress’ investigative arm, requesting a review of federal and state oversight of sober homes similar to the request from the senators.
The letter asks GAO for information, including the number of sober homes in each state, how many individuals they serve, how they can be regulated at each level of government, how effective their services are, and their relationship with Medicaid and other federally funded healthcare programs.
“Sober homes are supposed to be the last step in addiction recovery, where individuals prepare to transition back into the community,” Frankel said. “Sadly, in too many cases, sober homes are failing both the patients and the communities in which they live. Information from GAO will help us crack down on abusive sober homes and protect those in recovery.”
The letter was signed by 17 representatives.
Joint Statement update
Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice announced plans to update their Joint Statement in August. The statement is used when discussing how people in recovery are protected under federal law and fair housing laws.
The announcement about the update came at a meeting held in Delray Beach by Congresswoman Frankel.
Voluntary registration update
A voluntary registration of sober homes went into action last month, but was troubled with a lack of funding.
The law, which was passed in 2015, allows treatment centers to refer clients to sober homes that undergo the certification process.
The process requires the owner, chief financial officer and other top sober home officers to undergo criminal background checks.
But the legislation didn’t allot money for the program and said the registration would pay for costs.
Florida Association of Recovery Residences is overseeing the certifications and said the government left them little time and money to prepare.
Local task force
Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg was given $275,000 to oversee a multi-agency task force to come up with rules and ways to crack down on corruption.
The task force held its first meeting last month in West Palm Beach.
Former Delray Commissioner Adam Frankel and current Boca Raton Councilman Scott Singer were asked to serve on the task force.