CSAC Bulletin Article

Senate Health Reviews Concerns with Sober Living Homes

February 1, 2018

The Senate Health Committee heard from a variety of substance use disorder experts, providers, and clients yesterday during their informational hearing on Substance Use Disorder Treatment in California.

Health Committee Chair Ed Hernandez convened the hearing after a series of media articles shed light on the unscrupulous practices of unlicensed residential substance use “Sober Living Environments” or SLE’s.

These 6-bed or less facilities do not provide medical services and are not currently subject to licensing or certification in California. They differ from the licensed residential care centers that counties typically contract with and have increased in number since the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Counties, the state Departments of Health Care Services, Social Services, and Insurance, the Attorney General’s office, and private sector health plans have struggled to navigate this “wild west” of SLE’s in the state – not to mention the folks and their families who are seeking recovery options.  

The Committee heard from representatives from all of the above-named parties, as well as recovery home operators, clients, and city organizations urging the curtailment of these services in their communities. The hearing was informational, meaning no specific legislation was discussed, but the Senators who attended were keenly interested in the issue and verbally indicated that there appeared to be several opportunities for improvement within the industry. For a hearing agenda and materials, please visit this link.

CSAC has a long-standing policy supporting the role of SLE’s as an important community-based support option, as well as a critical option for the continuum of housing options those with substance use disorders require. Counties are also supportive of efforts to create an accreditation, licensing, and/or regulatory structure to ensure consistent quality among privately operated SLE’s, but are mindful of any unintended consequences or infringements on existing state, federal, and case law regarding these issues. Further, our members continually run into neighborhood opposition to all types of necessary recovery facilities.

CSAC will continue to engage on these issues on behalf of county supervisors, including any efforts to improve the SLE option in our communities. 

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