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Task Force Looking Into Further Regulations For Florida ’Sober Homes’

Peter Haden
Assistant State Attorney Al Johnson discusses new sober home legislation with residents of Lake Worth.

A new law could be in the works to regulate so-called “sober homes” in Florida. 

At a meeting attended by hundreds of residents in Lake Worth, Assistant State Attorney Al Johnson said that he is part of a task force created to crack down on  unscrupulous addiction recovery residences in Florida. The facilities are not currently required to be certified or licensed and the task force will propose legislation to change that. 

“Make no mistake about it: two sets of eyes – so we have both government and the private sector looking at these residences to make sure they’re squeaky clean,” Johnson said.

Credit Peter Haden / WLRN
Chief Assistant State Attorney Alan Johnson tells residents of Lake Worth what the task force is doing about recovery residences that take advantage of addicts. "We're in the middle of shutting this down," he said.

"Sober homes" are halfway houses for people fresh out of addiction programs. They have been a source of controversy in recent years because of lack of regulations and neighbors complaining that they are magnets for drug dealers fishing to get addicts hooked again. State legislators have tried to introduce regulations on how they operate but some of them have been overturned by courts, under the argument that they violate federal disability laws that protect against housing discrimination. Addiction is considered a disability under federal law.

The task force will recommend that either the Agency for Health Care Administration or the Florida Department of Children and Families oversee the residences, in addition to the Florida Association of Recovery Residences.

Johnson said Florida needs this law to weed out bad actors.

Chief Assistant State Attorney Alan Johnson

“This is not anti-recovery residence,” said Johnson. “It’s not anti-sober home, it’s not anti-treatment. It’s anti-corruption.”

The task force is trying to rally support from around the state and hopes the legislature will vote on the measure during next year’s lawmaking session in Tallahassee.

Johnson also encouraged people to report fraud and abuse at drug treatment facilities by calling a toll-free tip line: 1-844-324-5463.