As Arizona has responded to the opioid crisis, sober living homes have sprung up across the state, much of which have been completely unregulated. Now the city is moving to change that.
Sober living homes are where some people recovering from addiction go to continue treatment and recovery after they have left an addiction recovery center, and before they return to independence and daily life. They are critical to sustaining long term recovery and most are professionally managed by addiction specialists.
With hundreds of sober living facilities across the city of Phoenix that are set up in single-family dwellings and home to anywhere from two to 10 people, there are no licensing requirements to operate these facilities and virtually no government oversight.
Recently, however, sober living home operators have established poorly-managed facilities that put both the people who live there and the surrounding communities at risk.
The city is taking steps to close down group homes that are poorly run, which has been requested by community groups for months. One group, Take Action Phoenix, is an organization of Phoenix residents who have joined together to show their concern about the increase of unregulated sober-living homes in their neighborhoods.
Phoenix may require sober-living homes to obtain a license from the city, abide by city standards, and include random drug testing by March.
Although the new requirements are recommended by neighbors and even some facility operators, they could land Phoenix in a legal hot-spot. The federal government considers addiction a disability, and under the Fair Housing Act it cannot put any housing restrictions on these individuals that it wouldn’t impose on an average family.
Arizona’s Department of Health Services inspects and licenses sober living facilities that are home to individuals who are elderly or have physical or mental abilities. No requirement like this exists for sober living facilities. While the city is moving to regulate sober living homes, there are still concerns that the new requirements could violate the federal law and rights of those with an addiction.