The Florida Legislative session officially opens March 3, 2015. Over a period of what effectively amounts to forty (40) active ‘voting days’, state policy makers will review, amend and pass on to Governor Scott some portion of an estimated 2,000 bills that impact the future lives of some twenty (20) million Floridians.
For the third consecutive year, “the problem with unregulated sober homes” will be aggressively debated in both the Senate and House of Representatives. There is little doubt that, this year, both chambers will sync up to take definitive action. What remains uncertain is how effectively substance use disorder treatment and recovery residence service providers will unite under the FARR umbrella to make our voice heard and contribute to the final outcome.
Examine the facts. As an industry, we are vulnerable. For several years now, the Florida League of Cities has listed “unregulated sober homes” as their top agenda item. They consider all providers offering recovery-oriented housing to be “sober homes”. This includes DCF Residential 3 licensees or what the insurance world terms as PHP w day/night community housing: the “Florida Model”. FARR categorizes this group, along with DCF Residential 4 and 5 licensees, as Level IV Recovery Residences. Municipal leaders are far less concerned with regulations and oversight that focus on the delivery of quality clinical care than they are with the impact of recovery housing on their neighborhoods. The fact that Florida Model providers are already licensed and “regulated” by DCF hasn’t raised their comfort level. It’s a detail that they overlook with increasing regularity.
In a recent Sun Sentinel article, in reference to voluntary certification as proposed by House Bill 21, Delray Mayor Cary Glickstein stated: “On one level, anything is better than nothing, but the voluntary nature of that is troubling. If you look at any other business that is part of the medical industry, they are highly regulated businesses and industries,” Glickstein said. “Self-policing of an industry that we’ve seen go off the tracks this badly is just incredible.”
Mayor Glickstein is not addressing traditional, Level II Recovery Residences (halfways) when referring to “the medical industry”; he references Level IV recovery residences who blend clinical services with peer supportive housing in his city’s residential neighborhoods. Still, far too many Florida Model (Level IV) service providers exclude themselves from applying for FARR Certification because they don’t think of themselves as “sober homes”. Here-in lies our Achilles’ heel; our greatest point of vulnerability. We need to appreciate that when the rest of the world talks about “sober homes”, they dump all levels of clinical and recovery support into the same bucket.
Another critical factor influencing this years’ legislation emerges from well-placed concern over unethical and, in some instances, illegal practices that particularly plague the Southeast Florida corridor. Patient brokering and the improper utilization of urinalysis screenings to generate windfall profits undermines the entire spectrum. The fact that your organization has avoided participation in these “bad practices” may protect your reputation within the limited confines of our industry, but it won’t protect you from legislative backlash or from public perception. Your voice isn’t heard in Tallahassee or even in your local town hall. By remaining outside the tent, you effectively empower uninformed, narrowly focused policy makers to craft laws that directly impact your business. Politicians are motivated by numbers. They measure “constituencies of consequence” by their potential influence over voters. Due to the many challenges confronted when attempting to organize this industry, substance abuse disorder treatment providers and recovery residences alike unintentionally render ourselves easy prey. It’s ‘now or never’ time. In less than 40 days, the first interim committee week begins January 5, 2015. There will be five weeks of interim committee meetings before the session officially opens March 3, 2015. We must unify now or pay the price for our separateness. Including applicants for Certification and Partners in Excellence, FARR now represents 137 unique providers serving a bed capacity of 2,200 in over 511 locations throughout Florida. As the state affiliate of the National Alliance of Recovery Residences (NARR), we connect these providers with thousands of other standards-based operators nationwide.
Will this be our year or will we abdicate the crafting of appropriate and much needed policy revisions to persons unfamiliar with the real issues that affect the delivery of quality services to those seeking recovery in the Sunshine State? To learn more regarding FARR support levels, please read the December 2014 Sober World article available at SOBER WORLD.
To apply for certification at the appropriate support level for your organization; please visit https://farronline.org/old-site/become-a-certified-residence.