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Legislation Providing Safe Locations for Substance Abuse Recovery Heads to Governor

December 14, 2017

The Pennsylvania Senate took the final legislative step to approve legislation making it safer for recovering addicts undergoing treatment within the community or exiting inpatient treatment facilities. Senate Bill 446, sponsored by Senator Tom McGarrigle (R-Delaware) sets quality standards and a license process for recovery houses.

According to a memo describing the legislation, Sen. McGarrigle introduced the legislation after becoming aware of some facility owner who were exploiting residents by keeping them addicted and taking advantage of their situations.

The bill is based on standards developed by the National Association of Recovery Residences and directs the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs to develop regulations for licensure. Prior to the legislation, these facilities are were subject only to local ordinances.  Regulations must include, for example:

  • A policy ensuring criminal background checks for operators and employees
  • Policies and procedures addressing the safety of residents 
  • The maintenance of building safety standards
  • Policy preventing owners, administrators, and employees from requiring residents to sign over their public assistance benefits
  • Policies requiring resident participation in treatment or other recovery supports
  • The requirement of abstinence from alcohol and illicit drugs

The legislation now head to the Governor, who has indicated he will sign.

With a rising opioid overdose death rate in Pennsylvania of 4,642 individuals in 2016, the commonwealth is working to curtail the public health crisis. In addition to legislation such as this, other state efforts include legislative and executive task forces, Centers of Excellence, standing orders for naloxone at pharmacies, and medication prescription guidelines.

In addition to these state efforts, HAP and Pennsylvania hospitals are working to address the crisis through a number of strategies, including collaborating with the South Central PA Opioid Awareness Coalition, a partnership of several regional hospitals, and OverdoseFreePA.

For additional information on this bill, please contact Stephanie Watkins, HAP’s vice-president of state legislative advocacy. For additional information on how your region can form a health care led coalition to address the opioid crisis, please contact Robert Shipp, HAP’s vice president, population health strategies.   

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