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Florida moves closer to certification process for state's sober homes

April 20, 2015
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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A state that has targeted unethical practices in the burgeoning sober home market has moved one step closer to creating statewide mechanisms for certifying the residences and credentialing the administrators who run them.

The Florida House of Representatives last week overwhelmingly passed legislation (HB 21) that would allocate $475,000 to launch the regulatory process in the state. Although the certification of recovery residences would be voluntary under the law, these recovery homes would have a compelling business reason to pursue it: As of July 2016, no state-licensed addiction treatment facility would be allowed to refer a patient departing treatment to a non-certified sober home for recovery support.

Leaders with the Florida Association of Recovery Residences (FARR) believe this step would go a long way toward isolating and eventually weeding out some of the unscrupulous operators who have been doing business in the state, particularly in South Florida. Along with legislative action, investigators with the state's insurance fraud division have been looking into operations of both sober homes and primary treatment facilities, with raids last year on two recovery residence operations that led to the closing of one operator, Good Decisions Sober Living.

The House bill has a companion bill in the state Senate, SB 326, and that bill is currently moving through the Senate committee process and could come to a full Senate vote within the next couple of weeks.

Certifying entities

The legislation would direct the state Department of Children and Families to designate two independent nonprofit groups as the entities to certify recovery homes based on standards of operation and to offer a “recovery residence administrator” credential. While the legislation does not mention any entities by name, FARR would appear to be in the best position to certify homes (it already conducts similar standards-based reviews as part of its own membership process), while the Florida Certification Board would be the likely choice for credentialing administrators.

FARR president John Lehman says that the plan would be for FARR to transition into purely a certifying entity, with a new organization (to be called Floridians for Recovery) to be established as the statewide membership organization for recovery residences in Florida.

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