Along the Coast: Sober house rules could rein in ‘bad operators’

By Tim Pallesen

    The Florida Legislature has taken “an important first step” to regulate the sober homes for recovering addicts that cause concerns in Delray Beach, Boca Raton and other coastal communities.
    The new state law awaiting the governor’s signature offers sober homes a voluntary certification with the state. Drug and alcohol treatment centers could only refer patients to certified sober homes.
    Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein said the new state law will help reduce the number of sober homes by “eliminating the bad operators with little regard to the people in their homes or the communities in which these homes coexist.”
    Communities don’t even know now how many sober homes are operating in their cities. “Hopefully, the law will help us get a handle on how many of these sober homes there are,” state Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, said. “Right now it’s just a guess.”
    Federal housing laws protect recovering addicts from discrimination, leaving cities and states no regulatory powers over sober homes. Unlike other businesses, sober homes can operate in residential neighborhoods.
    “While the Florida legislation is a good first step, we need help from our federal lawmakers in changing antiquated laws and rules to provide cities authority to rebalance the rights and reasonable expectations of its residents,” Glickstein said.
    Clemens and state Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, who sponsored the legislation in the House, both agreed that the state law is just a start.
    The state Department of Children and Families will select groups to certify sober homes based on issues that include the concerns of neighbors. The Florida Association of Recovery Residences, based in Boca Raton, hopes to be designated as a certifying organization.
The new law, if signed by Gov. Rick Scott, will take effect in July 2016

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