Orange County Tackles Problems With Sober Living Homes

February 6, 2020 Updated: February 10, 2020
FONT BFONT SText size

LOS ANGELES—Due to the large number of addiction treatment and sober living facilities in Orange County and the Greater Los Angeles, the area has been nicknamed “Rehab Riviera.”

Many sober living homes are poorly run and are disruptive presences in many neighborhoods, said Donald P. Wagner, a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors who is leading initiatives to improve the situation.

A new ordinance in Orange County requires a 1,000-foot buffer zone between sober living homes and tightens permitting requirements. The Board of Supervisors passed the ordinance unanimously on Jan. 28.

“Some of the home operators are not doing what they’re supposed to do,” Wagner told the Epoch Times. “[Some] operators enforce no rules or curfews, and you have these people who are out in the front lawn … talking at all hours of the night, smoking out on the front lawn, littering the front lawns.”

“They have visitors who are taking up all of the parking spaces around homes and the problem is, these homes are in the middle of residential neighborhoods,” he said. “So it changes the character of the neighborhood.”

Furthermore, some operators aren’t treating the recovering addicts well.

“We hear things like they’ll take you in as long as insurance is paying for it,” he said. “They won’t enforce any rules, they won’t make sure you’re getting clean and sober, and then—once insurance runs out—they kick you out and you’re on the streets.”

A couple of weeks earlier, five people were arrested in connection with a $3.2 million sober living home fraud scheme. An investigation by local authorities alleges the perpetrators preyed upon substance abuse patients in an attempt to defraud an insurance company of millions of dollars, reported the O.C. Register.

“What we’re trying to do is encourage the good actors and discourage the bad actors,” Wagner said.

He said there are “a lot of operators out there who are doing it right and making sure that their residents are getting treatment.”

Prior to the new ordinance, the minimum separation between sober living facilities was 650 feet. Wagner believes extending the buffer zone to 1,000 feet will have a positive impact in his district’s more rural, unincorporated areas.

“The amended ordinance balances our ethical duty to help the men and women in these treatment programs to get their lives back in order, while also protecting the safety of our neighborhoods,” Wagner wrote in a statement released Jan. 28. “As Supervisor, my efforts to curtail an over-concentration of group homes help secure the peaceful nature of our family-friendly neighborhoods.”

Wagner encourages anyone concerned with the increase in group homes in their area to contact Orange County code enforcement at (714) 667-8850.