My son overdosed in a sober house

Sober homes can be an important component of recovery, but lack of regulation creates the risk for fraud.

By Maureen O'Reilly

Ed died in a sober house in Florida. He was locked in the bathroom for eight hours. No one thought to break down the door. There was no supervision, no structure, no house manager. Just a deteriorated looking ranch house in Florida with three to four residents. I saw pictures online of how horrible the place was. It was a miserable place, there were filthy carpets and mold all over the bathroom.

Six months after Ed’s death, the owners of the sober house were raided by the FBI. They owned the sober house, outpatient treatment center and the lab that they used for testing. His insurance company would pay thousands of dollars a week for urine tests to test for a hundred different substances. The irony is, the insurance company paid these urine testing bills but wouldn’t pay for actual treatment. It was crazy.

“Ed got caught up in patient brokering. He was living in the sober house for free but now I know why – they were getting thousands of dollars for his urine tests. He was a cash cow for them. You’d think they would want to keep him alive.”

The Problem

More than 21 million Americans are in recovery from substance use disorder. For many, recovery housing, which provides a drug-free and supportive living environment, is critical to maintaining that recovery.

Recovery housing helps people whose circumstances — like a lack of steady income or criminal record — make it difficult to remain housed. It has been found to reduce substance use, increase employment and reduce illegal activity.

Many states do not regulate recovery housing or require accreditation. As a result, there are inconsistencies in quality, including substandard and fraudulent providers.

The Solution

Develop and adopt best practices for operating recovery housing.

Take Action

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Tell your members of Congress that you support expanding high-quality recovery housing

Ask your members of Congress to co-sponsor the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) 3.0, which would promote increased availability of high-quality recovery housing, which can be critical to maintaining recovery.