“Sober” Houses Need to Be Regulated and Held Accountable

Holly Hackett, Community Advocate, Member of Coalition for People

My life has been impacted immensely by substance use disorder. Has yours? The statistics say yes, that 1 in 3 people know someone with substance use disorder, a chronic and debilitating brain condition. There are approximately 2.1 million people (and growing) in the U.S. suffering from this condition but only 1 in 9 seek treatment, usually due to the stigma surrounding mental health and addiction. These untreated traumas or mental health issues that lead to the person self-medicating can also lead to other health issues, criminal activity and unfortunately, deaths of despair. Every 11 minutes someone dies from an overdose and half are in private homes. In doing my research, I’ve concluded that a lot of these deaths at private homes have occurred in so-called “sober” houses.

My love Tom passed away just 20 days shy of his 39th birthday of liver failure after being in a “sober” house for about 3-4 months. I’m trying to bring awareness to these illegitimate, unsafe, fly-by-night houses that anyone can start, where MANY people across the country struggling with substance use disorder have died.

The cost to live in these houses can range from $700 to $10,000 a month and may not include food, cable TV or linens. In Connecticut there is Public Act No 18-171, but by using simple verbiage these houses are absolved and no one seems to want to enforce said act.

I’m also discouraged that these managers and/or owners of these “sober” houses aren’t held criminally liable if someone dies of an overdose at the house or perhaps drinks and drives and gets into an accident. I’d like to gather everyone together who has been affected by this disorder to stand together, work together, and find a way to let our local, state and federal legislators know these houses are UNACCEPTABLE and MORE needs to be done. We need to protect the vulnerable communities of people with mental health and substance use disorders. The process of Tom dying was long, and at times extremely physically and emotionally painful for him, but his parents suffered through emotional turmoil that cannot even be put into words!

I am hoping PAR readers will want to join me in working on this. Please contact me via email at hollyh1133@gmail.com.

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