By: Jacqueline Bain
Several clients have inquired in the past few weeks about the new Florida law regarding recovery residences, or sober living facilities. Implementation of the new law has been slow, leaving a lot of questions unanswered and room for opinions to be taken as facts.
Many have asked us if recovery residences are required by law to obtain certification. It is not mandatory for all sober homes to become certified prior to July 1, 2016. However, as of that date, a DCF-licensed substance abuse treatment facility may not refer a current or discharged patient to a recovery residence unless any of the following applies:
- the recovery residence holds a valid certificate of compliance or
- the recovery residence is owned and operated by a licensed service provider or
- the recovery residence is a licensed service provider’s wholly owned subsidiary.
The term “refer” means to inform a patient by any means about the name, address, or other details of the recovery residence. The effect of the law is to squeeze sober homes into obtaining certification if they are not owned and operated by a DCF-licensed treatment provider.
To obtain certification, a recovery residence must pay an annual fee, and submit the certain policies and procedures, intake forms, a code of ethics, rules for residents and proof of background screenings, and safety inspections with a completed application. Applicants are subject to on-site inspections. All owners, directors and CFOs are subject to level 2 background checks (the same background checks imposed upon DCF-licensed treatment facilities). The Department of Children and Families recently approved the Florida Association of Recovery Residences, Inc. as the certifying entity for recovery residences.
It is unclear how much oversight the State might have over the certifying body. Even though the certifying body is not a State entity, if a recovery residence misleads consumers into thinking that certification has been obtained when, in fact, it has not, a misdemeanor conviction may result. It remains to be seen just how much power the State will delegate to the certifying body with regard to investigations and enforcement.
If a recovery residence is not owned and operated by a DCF-licensed treatment provider (or its wholly-owned subsidiary), certification of the recovery residence itself is not the only certification needed in order to gain referrals from a treatment center. In order to obtain and maintain certification, a recovery residence must be actively managed by a certified recovery residence administrator. Certified recovery residence administrators are limited to actively managing a maximum of three recovery residences at any given time.
To obtain certification as a recovery residence administrator, an individual must meet the core competencies set forth by the certifying body, along with minimum certification requirements including training, on-the-job work experience, supervision, testing and continuing education. Certified recovery residence administrators are also subject to level 2 background checks. The Department of Children and Families recently approved the Florida Certification Board as the certifying entity for recovery residence administrators. Again, if a recovery residence administrator misleads consumers into thinking that certification has been obtained when, in fact, it has not, a misdemeanor conviction may result.