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Federal legislation would establish sober home best practices

June 21, 2018
by Tom Valentino, Senior Editor
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A bill unanimously passed by the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this month and currently under consideration in the Senate would represent the federal government’s most significant effort to regulate recovery housing in recent memory.

The Ensuring Access to Quality Sober Living Act, a bipartisan bill introduced by Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), would require the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to:

  • Publish best practices for operating sober living facilities
  • Distribute its publication to states
  • Provide technical assistance to states seeking to adopt the recommended practices

The proposed legislation has been referred to the Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

A spokesperson for SAMHSA declined an interview request with Behavioral Healthcare Executive, explaining that the administration prefers not to speculate on pending legislation, but noted that SAMHSA already works with groups to develop best practices for the operation of sober homes “and would continue to work with stakeholders to develop and publish best practices as called for in the bill if it were to become law.”

In a statement emailed to Behavioral Healthcare Executive, Dave Sheridan, president of the National Alliance for Recovery Residences, praised the bill as “a needed first step, in that it will lead to the promotion of best practices, and the development of implementation guidelines for state governments. It’s also an important step in protecting vulnerable individuals from predatory housing operators.”

Sheridan also cautioned that while publishing best practices is a positive start, funds are still needed for states to turn recommendations into realities, and currently, no new funds are being considered.

“We would like to see specific funding and programmatic descriptions for the support services needed to implement best practices by states, and ideally in the CARA 2.0 legislation currently under consideration by the House and Senate,” Sheridan said.

Contributing Editor Gary A. Enos contributed to this report.