Assemblywoman Quirk-Silva Advances Legislation For Safer Neighborhoods and Sober Living Facilities

Thursday, April 6, 2017

SACRAMENTO – On Tuesday, California State Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva’s (D – Orange County) Assembly Bill (AB) 572, passed out of the Assembly Health Committee. The legislation will give the County of Orange and its cities enforcement resources to monitor sober living facilities. This measure has been sponsored by the Association of California Cities – Orange County (ACC-OC) in response to the overwhelmingly disproportionate amount of unmonitored sober living residences in the region.

Sober living homes and facilities are meant to provide a sober and safe environment for those recovering from Alcohol or Other Drug (AOD) dependency in residential settings. However, there are very few regulatory mechanisms available for cities to ensure that the homes within their jurisdictions are functioning properly. This has spurred a proliferation of noncompliant sober living residences with challenges ranging from public safety issues, unregulated patient care, and in some cases, facility misconduct.

“AB 572 would create a voluntary pilot program for cities in Orange County to fund and house a DHCS Complaint Analyst within their city,” said the bill’s author, Assemblywoman Quirk-Silva. “It would be an added resource for cities, helping them to enforce state and local regulations, and provide patients with better care and higher rehabilitation outcomes. We look forward to working with the County and all stakeholders as this bill advances.”

The DHCS is the only entity that has the authority to enforce sober living facility regulations, and inspect noncompliant residences when a complaint arises. However, according to DHCS, there are only 16 Investigative Complaint Analysts that handle the entirety of the State’s noncompliant sober living facility investigations. California has nearly 2,000 licensed facilities and countless unlicensed homes – an alarming 15% of those homes are saturated in Orange County. Unfortunately, the Complaint Analysts are all located in Sacramento, causing a backlog in complaint processes, investigation response, and general monitoring.

“Unfortunately, because of bad actors in the industry, residential treatment facilities have a long history of difficulties in cities across the state. When a city receives a complaint or concern by a resident or a patient against a sober living facility, often times, a city’s only recourse may be to file a complaint with the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS),” said Heather Stratman ACC-OC, CEO.

 AB 572 was introduced in February, and will now be moving to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.