Florida law makers have decided it is high time to stop allowing addiction recovery residences to operate without regulatory oversight. In its last session, the Florida Legislature passed a new law (CS/CS/HB 21) requiring that the Department of Children and Families (DCF) create a voluntary certification program for substance abuse recovery residences, as well as requiring certification of residence administrators who oversee certified substance abuse recovery residencies. While this new certification program is voluntary, licensed inpatient and outpatient substance abuse treatment facilities will be prohibited as of July 1, 2016, from referring a patient to any recovery residence which is not certified under the new program, and which is not managed by a certified residence administrator. This prohibition effectively mandates certification.

The legislation creates a definition of “recovery residence,” which essentially is a residential unit or other form of group housing advertised as a residence that provides a peer-supported, alcohol-free and drug-free living environment. DCF has until December 1, 2015 to approve at least one credentialing agency which will be responsible for developing credentialing programs for both the residences and residence administrators. Credentialing will include level 2 background screening of all owners, directors, chief financial officers, and residence administrators. Disqualifying offenses under level 2 screening include felony drug abuse offenses. Disqualified individuals may apply for exemptions if it has been more than three years since their sentence or probation was concluded. Certified residences must be managed by a certified administrator, and an administrator may actively manage no more than three recovery residences at one time. Recovery centers that have been operating in Florida will need to act quickly to make sure they comply with the new requirements. In addition, centers should closely monitor and may want to try to get involved with the selection of the credentialing agences and implementation of the credentialing processes to try to make sure that their interests are protected.