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Paul Zimmerman

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Rossella Apostoli  ©

Federal Legislation Expected on Sober Living Homes

Sober living homes offer drug- and alcohol-free, cooperative living arrangements for people in the process of recovery from addiction. Rapid growth within the sector as well as increased media attention due to some recurring concerns expressed by frustrated communities, have led many states and municipalities to rethink their approach to substance abuse treatment and explore new modes of regulation. Now, federal legislators have said that they will intervene.

On September 1, 2016, more than 300 San Clemente and South Orange County residents attended a regional panel discussion led by Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to explore available options at the state and local level for zoning and licensing of sober living homes.

Congressman Issa discussed a bill he has proposed that amends the Fair Housing Act to specifically allow any local, or state or federal government body to enact and enforce a zoning ordinance or other regulation that limits the number of sober living homes within a particular neighborhood. Further, the proposed bill would:

  • Enable sober home zoning to be enforced only if necessary to preserve the residential character of communities and if it allows at least some sober homes to be located within a particular area
  • Prohibit overall caps on the number of sober homes in a city
  • Require a sober home, its owner, and its operator to obtain a license or permit to operate, meet a set of consumer protection standards, and register with the government
  • Require sober homes receiving  payments or reimbursements for housing or drug testing services from Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, or via private insurance purchase on an exchange to meet a set of standards:
    • Require sober homes to provide residents with a safe and sober living environment that is completely free from illegal drugs, alcohol, abuse, and harm
    • Require homes to be licensed and registered and to meet state-passed standards

Issa said he will introduce his bill to the House very soon, and M&R will provide additional information about the legislation when it is available. If you own or operate a sober living home in a residential community, now is the time to speak with a qualified attorney with experience in counseling providers on issues such as zoning, licensing, billing, marketing and regulatory compliance.

This blog post is not offered as, and should not be relied on as, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice in specific situations.