Solutions For All Of Us

63,632. That’s how many people the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported suffered overdose deaths in the United States in 2016 – the number is rising. The statistics make it clear that addiction is becoming more prevalent and deadly every year. In response, there has also been a dramatic increase in the number of facilities and services offering rehabilitation and recovery programs.

These facilities can provide life-saving services to meet the demand for residential treatment but this has also led to a number of issues as these facilities have grown in number so quickly that our laws and local ordinances have been slow to follow. For this reason, I proposed AB 3162, which would update our policies in order to help ensure that valuable residential rehabilitation and supportive services remain a therapeutic environment, helping to integrate those in recovery within our communities while protecting neighborhoods from the impact of irresponsible operators.

There is no singular “face” of an addict. Alcoholism and addiction are present in every demographic. This prevalence is why social integration is important to effective treatment, and why licensed residential treatment facilities are such a frequently utilized and valuable model. The basic idea of a residential treatment facility places recovering alcoholics and addicts in a conventional house, holding six beds or less, and have them begin to live normal lives in a therapeutic environment that is structured around a recovery program, such as 12-steps or SMART (Self Management And Recovery Training).

For many, these facilities provide essential recovery services that benefit our whole society. That being said, there are certainly valid concerns and problems that arise from their existence in neighborhoods throughout the state.

I have heard issues ranging from lack of notification, public safety concerns, over-crowding of homes, lack of legitimate treatment and, most significantly, rapid expansion into neighborhoods. The rapid expansion problem is one of the key issues my AB 3162 addresses. Many communities are seeing these homes expand way beyond their intended size and purpose. There are countless instances of these facilities expanding from one house to several, taking up large portions of neighborhoods and operating as full-scale campuses. This overwhelms the infrastructure of residential neighborhoods and residents while also hindering patients’ experiences within those very communities.

Shockingly, there is nothing in current law that requires services allowed under a residential license to be provided solely at the location where the state license was issued. AB 3162 adds that provision into the law. My bill also takes on many of the other issues with these homes.

Unlike most modern state licensing programs, current law does not require that a provisional probationary period be set up to ensure that the facility is genuine and compliant. My law will fix that by implementing a probation period on licensing.

As with any occupation, there are good and bad actors. The goal of my legislation is to weed out the bad ones and to help the good ones provide effective recovery services. I’ve had meetings with constituents and advocates on both sides of this issue. The goal of any recovery program is to return our friends, neighbors and loved ones to our communities, free from the grips of addiction. We need to come up with solutions that do just that and do it the right way – for all of us.

Last month, AB 3162 passed the legislature and is awaiting a signature from Governor Brown. I hope he will sign it into law so that we can continue to work on solving this critical mental and physical health epidemic in a way that improves our communities.

Assemblymember Laura Friedman represents the California Assembly 43rd District.