Addiction treatment advocates from Atlantic City, N.J. are pressuring state policymakers to change the laws surrounding sober living and other recovery homes in the area.
The advocates are primarily from nonprofit addiction treatment organizations, such as Stop the Heroin and the Hansen Foundation.
Advocates and members of these organizations have expressed that they wish the policymakers in New Jersey and local officials would aim to support individuals in recovery.
The representatives of the organizations explained that they believe that a system needs to be implemented to allow sober living facilities and recovery homes to operate within the models they choose and deem best.
Otherwise, they added, the people who are recovering from substance use disorders will continue to lack the support that they need.
When it comes to housing laws and regulations, sober living homes currently operate in a kind of legislative gray area, the addiction treatment advocates stated.
The reason is that the state laws and the Department of Consumer Affairs do not formally recognize sober living and/or recovery facilities.
Therefore, the organizations that are looking to establish a sober living facility or recovery home are forced to categorize their businesses as boarding houses or as Oxford houses — essentially entirely supported by the residents and operated democratically.
To account for the specific circumstances of businesses that have been categorized as boarding houses or recovery houses, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed into law the creation of a Class F License for Cooperative Sober Living Residences.
The problem with the license created by Christie is that it sets limitations on the capacity of the sober living homes to a maximum of 10 people, disregarding the size of the place, explained Jennifer Hansen, who founded the Hansen Foundation in 2001.
Hansen had recovered from a substance use disorder herself just a few years before establishing the Hansen Foundation and has spent the past five years battling against the state of New Jersey.
The New Jersey Superior Court recently ordered her to pay more than $500,000 in violations and penalties for the sober living houses that she had been running in Atlantic City.
But Hansen is not ready to give up the fight and she has continued to be a prominent figure behind the groups of advocates pushing for policy changes in the state.
Recovery facilities and sober living homes look to offer support for the people who have already completed a clinical addiction treatment program by providing them with a safe environment that’s free of alcohol and drugs and that can prepare them to go back to their lives.
Hansen explained that her organization currently has more than 100 people in recovery who are at risk of being homeless if the state does not change its regulations fast.
Since its foundation, the Hansen Foundation has managed to make more than 180 beds available for persons who were in need of support during addiction recovery.
She has recently created an electronic petition to push the policy changes surrounding sober living facilities in the area and has gotten substantial support from the public.