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HB 479/SB 582 (Florida Sober Home Legislation)

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at April 22, 2014

Interesting day in Tallahassee. The next 24-72 hours will be telling.

House Bill 479 has been placed on the “Special Order Calendar” for tomorrow. If voted on favorably, it will likely be headed to the entire House floor at some point for a vote.

HB 479 creates a “voluntary certification” system by which sober living residences may (but not need to) become certified by a third-party accrediting body (to be determined). Treatment providers would thereafter only be able to refer patients to “certified” sober living residences. There still remains much debate where the “teeth” are in this bill and how it work.

Separately, Senate Bill 582 focused upon the licensing (or certification) of an operator of a sober living residence. The amendment we had been working on with Senator Clemens made it very clear that only operators who were advertising residences as being drug/alcohol free and which were intended to house people still moving through the treatment continuum, rather than being ³established in their recovery² would be regulated and only for the purpose of ensuring that what was being advertised was actually being provided. There was a lot of other ³teeth² in the bill, all of which was narrowly tailored specifically to protect people in recovery (and therefore, remain compliant with ADA and FHA laws). This amendment was anticipated to be filed prior to today¹s final Senate Appropriations Committee hearingŠ

However, as we had heard would be happening, Senator Smith filed his own amendment as a ³Delete All Amendment” (see http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2014/0582/Amendment/647088/PDF) which proposed to create a ³Statewide Taskforce on Recovery Residences².

I personally think that this is a mistake because the entire treatment industry needs to be examined to determine whether the treatment protocols in place are working, and what role ³housing² has in the treatment paradigm (unlike any other form of medical or behavioral health care, substance abuse treatment requires, as part of the standard of care, supportive housing as part of the therapeutic model, and unlike medical care, there is not a consensus on what ³treatment² should include or should be covered by insurance).

The Senate Appropriations Committee hearing just ended tonight at 6pm and the bill wasn¹t heard. Waiting to confirm but it appears SB 582 may have ³died in committee.²

But nonetheless, both bills remained very different, and one will have to give way for the other.

At this point, if SB 582 is ³dead² then the Senate would have to take up and adopt HB 479 (assuming the House passes it) or we start over next year.

That said, word on the street is that the Atty. Gen. and Surgeon Gen. are apparently going to put together their own task force if this all falls apart, likely under the existing ³Statewide Drug Policy Advisory Council² created pursuant to s. 397.333, Fla. Stat.

To be continued….

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