State Sen. Tom McGarrigle’s district, which sprawls across Philadelphia’s western suburbs, has been hit hard by the opioid crisis. Delaware County has the dubious honor of leading the state in police use of Narcan, an anti-overdose drug. Two drug counselors at nearby Chester County recovery house recently overdosed on site.
Stories like these motivated McGarrigle to sponsor SB-446, bipartisan legislation that would establish baseline regulations for recovery housing in the state, according to McGarrigle’s chief of staff, Mike Rader.
“There’s a lot of different pieces to the opioid crisis. We’re getting people who are trying to get out from under their addiction...and they look for housing to help transition to recovery,” Rader said. “But in Pennsylvania, there’s no oversight for drug and alcohol recovery housing.”
The bill was voted out of Senate’s Urban Affairs & Housing committee today.
While the need for transitional housing has boomed along with addiction rates, the number of quality units has not. Many are “under the radar” operations, Rader says. A recent Inquirer investigation found that some operators still profit from squeezing government benefits out of addicted men and women, along with other kickbacks.
SB-446 would establish a licensing and oversight arm within the state’s Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, which would be funded through a “Drug and Alcohol Recovery House Fund.” That fund, in turn, would draw revenues from licensing fees.
Rader said the new guidelines would seek to establish minimum standards for safety, cleanliness and security at recovery houses, with provisions for enforcement coming later. The regulations would apply to both government-subsidized and private operators.
However, the shortage of legitimate recovery housing, which has fueled grey-market operators, has yet to be taken up by Harrisburg.
“This is just one piece to the puzzle in the opioid crisis,” Rader said, of SB-446.