Column: Improving the quality of care in recovery group homes

The proliferation of drug and alcohol recovery homes in Prescott is of major concern to our community and has been for the past decade. In conjunction with, and in anticipation of passage of Representative Noel Campbell’s H.B. 2107 to regulate structured sober living recovery homes, the City of Prescott is implementing its own plans to improve the health, safety and welfare of clients in these homes. These plans will not only improve the chances for successful treatment and recovery for people with addictions, they will also help to reduce neighborhood complaints from residents living near these recovery homes. The provisions of Rep. Campbell’s three-page bill can be viewed at www.azleg.gov. Once at this page, enter 2107 in the “bill number search” box located in the upper right hand corner.

As it stands now, the recovery home industry is largely unregulated. And it is not possible for our city zoning ordinances alone to ensure a high standard of care for those seeking to recover from their addiction in Prescott. Therefore, passage of Rep. Campbell’s bill, which allows each municipality to set its own supervision requirements within these homes, is essential to regulate and raise the standard of care for the clients in recovery here.

Working with the Northern Arizona Recovery Association (NARA), Prescott has already established supervision requirements and drafted qualifications for a house manager of a recovery home. (Currently no standards or requirements exist for recovery home managers in unlicensed homes.) Additionally, the city is discussing an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with Yavapai College to develop and conduct a training course for recovery home managers based upon the established qualifications. The proposed course will include training on the disease model of addiction, first aid and CPR, prevention and control of infectious disease, crisis prevention and intervention, assistance in self-administration of medication, and establishment and maintenance of discharge plans for clients. House manager skills in these areas are critical components of quality care for people going through recovery, as well as reducing the potential for disturbances and other impacts to our residential areas. Upon successful completion of the course, recovery home managers will be awarded a certification so as to meet the supervision requirements set by Prescott. The training course is anticipated to be listed in the fall 2016 course offerings at Yavapai College.

I have also established the Mayor’s Ad Hoc Committee on Structured Sober Living Homes due to the high number of concerns and complaints from citizens in neighborhoods where certain recovery homes operate. It will serve as both a conflict resolution mechanism and a forum to educate and inform the public on the requirements for successful operation of recovery homes. In short, the purpose of the committee is to receive and review complaints from city residents and/or structured sober living home clients regarding health, safety, and welfare issues within specific homes. The committee will also collaborate with appropriate city departments in order to achieve a definite resolution to the complaints. A complete listing of the roles, responsibilities and processes it will follow can be found at the city’s website, www.prescott-az.gov, under the City Leadership tab, and then by selecting the Boards & Commissions page.

I appointed the eight-member citizen committee by using an application and review process; they will serve throughout my term of office. The selected committee members represent a good cross-section of our community, and have a variety of backgrounds including health care, public safety, education, business, and long-term residency. Given the direct connections to code enforcement and community-oriented policing, the Prescott Police Department will oversee the operation of the committee. The committee meets on a monthly basis with all meetings open to the public with the exception of any executive sessions that may be necessary. The first meeting of the committee occurred on March 10, 2016, and elicited important public and city staff input. The committee members and I look forward to active participation from both the citizens of Prescott and clients in the recovery homes to address fact-based incidences and take effective steps to bring about prompt resolution to problems. The overall goal of the committee is to achieve cooperation and mutual respect among neighbors, recovery home owners/operators and clients.

In closing, I want to thank the Northern Arizona Recovery Association as the impetus behind the proposed training course for recovery home managers. In addition, NARA has provided outstanding professional expertise and advice to me and our city staff as we educate and inform our citizenry about recovery group homes. Their input has been invaluable.

Harry B. Oberg is the Mayor of the City of Prescott.