A bill that would allow substance abuse recovery houses the option of being certified by the state drew a unanimous vote in a House committee hearing.
House Bill 114, sponsored by Rep. Kerri Evelyn Harris, D-Dover/Magnolia, also would allow state and local government funds to go only to homes that are certified under the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.
Those in the substance abuse recovery business say that they have been shocked that Delaware does not require recovery homes to be certified.
It’s an issue that’s come into focus as opioid addictions worsened under the COVID-19 pandemic and deaths from heroin, fentanyl and other narcotic drugs continue to plague the country.
Recovery houses are places where recovering addicts live after leaving their first programs to kick drugs.
Many programs require their patients to move into sober living facilities to reduce the stresses that led to their addictions, the availability to drugs and closeness of others who may still do drugs, all to help strengthen their resolve to stay clean.
Many in the houses continue to work through addiction programs as they seek healthier lifestyles and slowly take on public jobs before fully moving back into society.
George Meldrum, a former Nemours lobbyist, testified that he has been sober for 30 years and continues to be active in recovery programs. He’s met many people who felt like their recovery house experience actually damaged their attempts to recover because they were not run well.
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HB 114, Harris’s first bill since her election to the House, drew bipartisan support from Tuesdays meeting of the House Health & Human Development Committee. The bill has 12 cosponsors, only one of whom was Republican, Rep. Ruth Briggs King of Georgetown.
She spoke in support of the bill, saying that she’s championed certified recovery houses for many years and that it’s important there is a section that punishes places for misrepresentation of certification.
Under the bill, any recovery house that advertises itself as certified when it isn’t will face a civil fine of up to $20,000, with a fine being imposed each day a violation occurs.
Rep. Jeff Hilovsky, R-Long Neck, asked whether the $20,000 limit applies across the entire violation or houses would have to pay $20,000 per day they are in violation.
Harris thanked him for pointing out the issue and said an amendment will be proposed clarifying that if houses are working in good faith to fix the violation, they won’t continue to be fined.
Recovery house rules
Under the bill, a recovery house seeking certification must fill out a renewal application every two years, undergo inspection by the Division of Substance Abuse, and provide data to the division on who is staying there, for how long, where they go after leaving and other information the division might want.
The bill specifically exempts Oxford recovery homes, which have separate houses for men and for women, because they are already operating under a certification program.
Oxford Houses are part of a 501(c)3 that is described on its website as a “a democratically run, self-supporting and drug free home.”
There are currently 80 Oxford Houses in Delaware.
The bill would also create a certified recovery house fund with money appropriated by the legislature, as well as money from fines, grants or gifts.
The Division of Substance Abuse also will be required to publish an annual report to various state agencies.
The bill’s fiscal note says it will cost the state $400,000 in contractual funding each year for the next three years.
The bill is called the Matthew D. Klosowski Act, in honor of a man who died of an accidental overdose on prescription painkillers.
HIs mother, Mary Beth Cichocki, spoke in favor of the bill. Perennial General Assembly public commenter Robert Overmiller spoke against the bill.
The bill is now assigned to the House Appropriations Committee.
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