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Regulation of Florida Recovery Residences Update

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The DCF Recovery Residence Study commissioned by the state legislature under SB 1500 (General Appropriations Act 2013-2014) has been released. As readers review the content of this study, it becomes abundantly clear that:

  1. DCF does not envision a need for Recovery Residences (levels 1-3) to be licensed.
  2. DCF warns that registry, licensing and/or regulating Recovery Residences may violate federal law.
  3. DCF warns local governments that attempts to use zoning ordinances and landlord permitting to limit the rights of persons who are protected under FHA/ADA from residing together in single family neighborhoods may be found discriminatory.
  4. While DCF does not site studies that evidence increased crime or decreased property values, DCF does site studies that evidence the status quo or even improvement in crime statistics and property values.
  5. Concerns typically voiced by NIMBY groups is not evidenced by these studies; but in fact, they reflect that Recovery Residences are typically good neighbors.
  6. Recovery Residences do, in fact, produce positive outcomes for those they serve and that they are thus valuable community resources.
  7. Existing resources such as police departments, building departments and fire departments are sufficient to handle complaints and concerns as they arise in local communities.

While the study does not make specific recommendations to the legislature or the Governor (nor was it commissioned to do so) it does address all majors issues raised by stakeholders throughout the public process. The factual references included in this document clearly demonstrate that DCF favors leaving local governments in charge of addressing their concerns regarding recovery residences. However; the study also provides local governments with a clear suggestion that they tread very cautiously when setting out on any course of public policy that might be interpreted by Federal courts as discriminatory. Singling out recovery residences and/or failing to make reasonable accommodations to exclude recovery residences from zoning ordinances which might impair or limit their ability to fulfill their primary mission is a course of action that will likely result in costly litigation.

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FARR needs to be equally cautious as we examine our standards, procedures and policies to make certain that we do not inadvertently impede quality service providers from obtaining certification. The FARR Advisory Board mission is clear. Our focus is centered on making certain that those whom we certify have taken and continue to take the necessary steps to ensure residents are provided with a safe, nurturing, drug & alcohol free environment with which they might call their home during the early stages of recovery. We are not in the business of assisting local governments in their efforts to restrict, retard or otherwise hinder recovery residence operators from providing housing to this class of individuals. However; our purposes are aligned with local governments who seek to close down, and/or prevent from opening, recovery residences who are so in name only and clearly do not have the residents’ best interests as their primary priority.  FARR Standards and Ethics are the heart of this effort. We must continue to identify areas of concern and clarify which practices are and are not acceptable. We must coordinate enforcement efforts with both local and state level agencies whose jurisdiction provides them the power to address illegal practices and protect Floridians. FARR is prepared to lead our industry to higher ground and join other organizations who’s mission is aligned with our own. Self-regulation demands integrity and transparency. To be credible in the eyes of those who remain suspicious, we must demonstrate our resolve over time. Mistakes will be made. How we address and remedy those mistakes will reveal our character.

There will certainly be renewed attempts to legislate control over this growing industry as the session reopens. The League of Cities and other organizations will surely introduce new and revised bills intent on assuaging their fears regarding “those people”. In some instances, bills may be passed into law only to be challenged later in the courts. Whatever measures become necessary, FARR will continue our effort to organize the industry so that we may better defend and protect the rights of those we serve.

 

Click to Download DCFu0026#39u003Bs Response