By Jane Smith
Delray Beach appears to be shedding its image as a city full of rogue sober homes.
The city had “an explosion of flophouses” a few years ago, Chief Assistant State Attorney Al Johnson said at his office’s Sober Homes Task Force meeting in January.
Marc Woods, a code enforcement officer who inspects sober homes in Delray Beach, echoed his statement.
“While the stats on sober homes are hard to come by because of federal disability laws,” Woods said, “the telling stat in Delray Beach is the number of overdoses.”
The city hit a peak in October 2016 with 96 overdoses and 11 deaths, he said. By October 2017, the numbers dropped to 25 overdoses and three fatalities. A similar decline occurred between November 2016 with 77 overdoses and five deaths and a year later when 17 overdoses and four fatalities were recorded.
Woods said the first reason for the decrease was the 20 or so arrests on patient brokering charges that a Delray Beach detective helped make. “That led to 100-plus sober homes closing their doors,” Woods said.
Another factor was the Police Department’s hiring of a social worker, he said. Ariana Ciancio visits overdose patients and gives them options, including scholarships to treatment centers and sober homes.
She helps to rid the city of the people who are taxing the public safety system with four and five overdoses in the same day, Woods said.
“The overdose numbers are encouraging,” he said. “But a bad batch of heroin could cause the numbers to increase.”
Johnson estimated that about 10 percent of the overdose reduction is from recovery residences having and being able to administer a drug, Narcan, to revive an overdose patient. Also last summer, Delray Beach passed a group homes ordinance requiring landlords to register with the city when more than three unrelated people live together.
The city now requires each sober home to have a Florida Association of Recovery Residences certification. The rule also details the 600-foot space requirements for new group homes to prevent a block from becoming overwhelmed.