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Prescott lawmaker files group-home bill

Noel Campbell

Noel Campbell

It is now official: The draft group-home bill that state Rep. Noel Campbell has been working on for months was filed with the Arizona Legislature Monday, Jan. 11 - the first day of the 2016 legislative session.

"I just dropped the bill in the hopper," Campbell said by telephone Monday afternoon, referring to the process of officially filing the bill. "Now, it will go to the speaker's desk, a number will be assigned to it, and then it will be sent to committee."

That likely sets the stage for months of consideration in the state House and Senate, before the bill could become law.

After an earlier version of a group-home bill failed in the last legislative session, Campbell began work this past summer on a new bill aimed to help communities such as Prescott get a better handle on the proliferation of sober-living homes.

The resulting state Legislature's Ad Hoc Committee on Drug Rehab Recovery Homes met four times in Phoenix in late 2015 to try to work out issues that arose among local governments, the state, and the group home industry.

The committee's ultimate recommendation in November 2015 was for a bill that would give local governments more authority over group homes - a proposal that led to weeks of work on drafting of the bill.

Campbell, a Republican from Prescott, is the sponsor of the new bill, which would give cities, towns, and counties the authority to regulate structured sober-living homes.

It is an "enabling bill," Campbell explained, which means that counties and municipalities - "if they so choose" - would have the ability to impose more restrictions on sober-living homes in which at least 25 percent of the occupants are going to treatment at a licensed facility.

For instance, the bill states that municipalities and counties could impose:

• Mandatory registration, which would require structured sober-living homes to supply the name and address of the facility, as well as the owner's/lessee's name, address, and contact number.

• Fire safety requirements.

• Square footage and location requirements of the residents' bedrooms.

• Supervision requirements, including a condition that each sober-living home have a qualified house manager on site.

• Setting qualifications for the house manager, including: a high school or general equivalency diploma; minimum age of 21; ability to demonstrate an understanding of the disease model of addiction; and successful completion of training in first aid and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), infectious disease control and prevention, crisis prevention and intervention, and assisted self-administration of medication certification.

• A discharge plan for residents, including those who do not comply with house rules.

• Transportation of residents.

If a sober-living home does not comply with the municipality or county's requirements, it could be declared a "nuisance detrimental to the public health and safety." The local government could then bring an action for an injunction against the violating facility, or "enjoin the future operation or maintenance (of the facility) until there is substantial compliance with this section and the ordinances."

The bill defines a structured sober-living home as "any premises, place, or building that provides alcohol-free or drug-free housing, promotes independent living and life skill development, and provides structured activities that are directed primarily toward recovery from substance use disorders in a supervised setting to a group of unrelated individuals who are recovering from drug or alcohol addiction, of whom at least 25 percent receive outpatient behavioral health services for substance abuse or addiction treatment while living in the home."

The bill would exempt private residences in which a related family member is required to receive outpatient behavioral health services for substance abuse or addiction treatment as a condition of continuing to live in the family home.

The City of Prescott has dealt in recent years with a proliferation of group homes, many of which are not required to be licensed by the state. This past fall, the city reported that more than 160 known group homes existed within city limits.

Prescott Mayor Harry Oberg said Monday afternoon that he supports the bill, and would testify in its favor, if asked. "I'm looking forward to this thing getting passed through the legislature this year," Oberg said. "I hope (Campbell) is successful."

Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks. Reach her at 928-445-3333 ext. 2034, or 928-642-0951.