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The new Arizona statute allowing municipalities to govern their own structured sober-living homes goes into effect Aug. 6, and the City Council is hammering out how to protect the homes’ residents and how to satisfy their neighbors’ standard of living.
At the council’s Tuesday, July 12, study session, City Attorney Jon Paladini set forth definitions, suggestions and, as yet, unanswered questions. First and foremost, he said, is the goal of protecting a vulnerable population from abuse, neglect, mistreatment, fraud and inadequate supervision of those who home operators.
“A well-supervised home will protect the neighborhoods around it; disruptions will be less likely,” Paladini said.
He defined a sober-living residence as a home; however, the operation of it is a business, and the operators will need a business license, a requirement that goes into effect Jan. 1, 2017.
Like new homes, existing sober-living homes will need to apply for a permit and will have a suggested one-year deadline to meet the requirements. The city can deny or revoke a permit if an operator or staff provides false or misleading information, has an employment history in which he or she was fired because of physical assault, sexual harassment, theft, falsifying a drug test or selling or furnishing illegal drugs or alcohol. An operator may be denied if he or she is a Level 2 or Level 3 sex offender, on formal parole or probation, or within seven or 10 years’ time frame from a conviction of certain criminal offenses.
Some requirements Paladini proposed are:
• Operators must disclose to the landlord their intention to run a sober-living home.
• Operators must have an operation plan that includes discharge planning, property maintenance, and noise abatement.
• Residents must be actively participating in legitimate recovery programs with records of attendance.
• Operators/house managers must provide 24-hour supervision.
• Like any family, residents can have group discussions, but counseling or professional services in the home makes it a “treatment center.”
• Prescribed medications must have secure storage; operators can manage, but not dispense medication.
• Violating house rules is cause for eviction.