New legislation regulates Florida addiction recovery residences

During the last Florida legislative session, a bill designed to clamp down on addiction recovery residences was passed with little fanfare. In June, Gov. Rick Scott signed HB 21 into law.

The legislation, which took effect July 1, creates ss. 397.487 and 397.4871, F.S., which require the Florida Department of Children and Families to create a voluntary certification program for recovery residences and directs the department to approve at least one credentialing entity to develop and administer the certification program by Dec. 1, 2015.

Among other things, the approved credentialing entity would establish procedures to include regular onsite inspections, a Level 2 background screening of owners, directors, and provides for a criminal penalty for those who falsely advertise themselves as a “certified recovery residence administrator.”

Passage of the legislation was in response to a 2013 study of Florida recovery residences conducted by DCF in which questions relating to public safety and government oversight were addressed. DCF requested input at public hearings during which a number of concerns were raised including:

  • Unscrupulous landlords
  • Residents dying in recovery residences
  • Mismanagement of resident’s money and medication
  • Lack of security
  • Abuse of residents
  • Lack of background checks for employees
  • Poor living conditions for residents
  • Neighborhood nuisance issues including fights, crime, lack of maintenance of the property
  • Insurance fraud
  • An overall lack of uniformity in standards

Although the certification process is voluntary – which at first glance makes it appear that it has no teeth – the bill also prohibits licensed substance abuse providers from referring patients to recovery residences, which are not certified or not owned and operated by a licensed substance abuse provider, effective July 1, 2016.

The bill also requires the credentialing agency to deny certification of a recovery residence if it has any owner, director, or CFO disqualified under the Level 2 background screening statute, unless an exemption has been granted by DCF. The bill requires the certified recovery residence to be actively managed by a certified recovery residence administrator.

Certification can be revoked if the recovery residence fails to comply with provisions of the law and requires the residence to remove or terminate any owner, director, CFO or administrator who becomes disqualified under the Level 2 background screening.

Because of the tight deadlines, residential recovery centers will need to act quickly to get up to speed on the new requirements or face losing their ability to operate.

The Health Law Offices of Anthony C. Vitale represents substance abuse providers and facilities. Our firm can help you to comply with the new laws.

We can be reached at 305 358-4500 or email us at

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The Health Law Offices of Anthony C. Vitale