Davis: Hearing identifies failings in recovery house process, regulations

HARRISBURG, April 5 – State Rep. Tina Davis, D-Bucks, said the House Democratic Policy Committee held a public hearing Monday on her House Bill 1884, which would provide for standards, monitoring and inspection of recovery houses.

"The hearing featured heart-wrenching testimony from recovery house providers, clients, family of addicts and government officials who largely decried the dearth of regulation or standards governing the facilities," Davis said. "The desperate need for oversight of recovery homes was reinforced repeatedly."

Davis said House Bill 1884 would create a State Board of Recovery Residences charged with enacting safeguards and regulations to ensure a safe environment for recovery home clients and their neighbors, including an inspection process for certification, background screenings for operators and requirements that service providers provide referrals to certified residences.

"We need more regulations," testified Micki Kaisinger, who, along with her husband, operates a sober living facility, Emilie House, in Bucks County. Kaisinger said she was sickened by the reputation that many recovery houses have earned, and said a statewide system is needed to help patients and families discern reputable facilities from ineffective ones.

"In the most serious cases of neglect and negligent home operation, illegal activity is attracted and supported," said Jason R. Sabol, solicitor for the City of York.  "What was supposed to be a bastion for recovery is instead a flophouse for addicts and a dream come true for dealers."

"I feel that the bill [H.B. 1884] covers all what we need but it needs to be mandatory," testified Amber Longhitano, vice president of Bristol Township Council. Longhitano described situations where recovery home clients are accosted by drug dealers as they leave the facilities.

"As we all know and have experienced in our communities, there are many well run recovery house, and there are also poorly run houses," said Gary Tennis, secretary of the state Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, who asked that a task force formed to tackle the issue be allowed to complete its work "and get it right" with its recommendations. "The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs takes this problem seriously."

Davis said H.B. 1884, its background and testimony submitted for the hearing are available on the Policy Committee website, www.pahouse.com/PolicyCommittee.

Davis said technical issues prevented the hearing from being live-streamed. However, a video of her opening statement is available via her website, www.pahouse.com/Davis. Davis said she will alert residents about a possible future broadcast of the hearing on PCN, the Pennsylvania Cable Network.