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Palm Beach County Lawmakers Make Sober Home Bill Top Priority

Florida House of Representatives

Palm Beach County lawmakers say tightening regulations on so-called "sober homes" will be one of their top priorities during this year's legislative session in Tallahassee. 

Sober houses are group homes for people recovering from drug or alcohol dependencies. In recent years, the facilities have become a booming business in parts of Broward and Palm Beach Counties. But critics complain many of the facilities are bringing noise, traffic and even drug dealing to their single-family neighborhoods.

During an Economic Forum of Palm Beach County panel discussion on Monday, State Representative Pat Rooney of Palm Beach Gardens told the audience that getting some sort of sober home regulation on the books has bipartisan support.

“We want to try to help our cities be able to figure out ways so that these sober homes are not coming in and destroying property values," said Rooney. "It’s the top priority of a lot of our cities.”

Regulating the sober houses is difficult because, in most cases, they're protected under federal law. This year, State Representative Bill Hager of Boca Raton filed a bill that would create a volunteer registry for sober homes. The bill would also require background checks for sober home operators.

Christine DiMattei is a reporter with WLRN in Miami. WLRN is a partner with Health News Florida, which receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Christine DiMattei is WLRN's Morning Edition anchor and also reports on Arts & Culture.