The nation’s epidemic of addiction to painkillers and heroin is fueling runaway demand for a once-obscure form of housing known as “sober homes,” where recovering addicts live together in a supervised, substance-free setting to ease their transition back to independence.
The facilities are rarely run by credentialed professionals and are only lightly regulated — a situation that has prompted at least five states to pass or consider legislation to impose basic rules on how they operate. Some homes have been accused of tolerating drug use and participating in insurance fraud.
“The ones that are good are fantastic,” said Pam Rodriguez, CEO of Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities, an Illinois nonprofit working to reduce prison time for nonviolent drug offenders. But the rapidly expanding field also includes “people exploiting the vulnerability of the population and their desperation to find a safe place to live,” she said.