» MA Sober Homes Law

Effective September 1, 2016, state agencies and their vendors shall only be able to refer clients to certified alcohol and drug free (ADF) housing.  Any home not certified will not be able to accept clients from state agencies until certified.

Chapter 165, Section 37 of the Acts of 2014 required the Department of Public Health (DPH) to establish a process for the voluntary certification of alcohol and drug free (ADF) housing. This legislation limits state agencies and their vendors to referring to certified ADF housing.  DPH awarded a contract to the Massachusetts Alliance for Sober Housing (MASH) to be the certifying body, and the training and technical assistance vendor.

MASH will adhere to the nationally  recognized standards and practices that:

  • Uphold industry best practices and support a safe, healthy, and effective recovery environment;
  • Evaluate the ability of the Operator to support residents in their recovery;
  • Provide for appropriate training and satisfactory completion of training for operators and staff;
  • Protect occupants of ADF housing against unreasonable and unfair practices in setting and collecting rent payments; and
  • Verify good standing with regard to local, state, and federal laws, regulations, and ordinances including maximum occupancy, fire safety and sanitation.

Massachusetts Sober Homes Law

In July 2014, Bill H.1828 was passed into law mandating the monitoring and voluntary certification of MA Sober Homes. Section (h) of this law (read below) states that although a sober home is not required to be certified to operate, a state agency or vendor with a statewide contract to provide treatment services, or a state agency or officer setting conditions for release, parole or discharge, may not refer a person to a residence that is not certified.

Section 18A. (a) As used in this section, the following words shall have the following meanings unless the context clearly requires otherwise:

“Alcohol and drug free housing”, a residence, commonly known as a sober home, that provides or advertises as providing, an alcohol and drug free environment for people recovering from substance use disorders; provided, however, that, ”Alcohol and drug free housing” shall not include a halfway house, treatment unit or detoxification facility or any other facility licensed pursuant to section 7 of chapter 111E.

”Bureau”, the bureau of substance abuse services established in section 18.

”Certified alcohol and drug free housing”, alcohol and drug free housing that has been accredited by the bureau pursuant to this section.

”Director”, the director of substance abuse services.

”Operator”, the lawful owner of alcohol and drug free housing or a person employed and designated by the owner to have primary responsibility for the daily operation of such housing and for maintaining standards and conditions in such housing that create an environment supportive of substance use disorder recovery.

(b) The bureau shall establish and provide for the administration of a voluntary training and accreditation program for operators of alcohol and drug free housing seeking certification under subsection (d).

(c) The accreditation program established pursuant to this section shall maintain nationally-recognized standards and practices that:

(i) uphold industry best practices and support a safe, healthy and effective recovery environment;

(ii) evaluate the ability to assist persons in achieving long-term recovery goals;

(iii) provide for appropriate training for the operators and staff and ensure satisfactory completion of such training;

(iv) protect occupants of alcohol and drug free housing against unreasonable and unfair practices in setting and collecting rent payments; and

(v) verify good standing with regard to local, state and federal laws and any regulations and ordinances including, but not limited to, building, maximum occupancy, fire safety and sanitation codes.

(d) The bureau shall include a residence on a list of certified alcohol and drug free housing as described in subsection (f) upon receipt and review of:

(i) the completion of training as described in subsection (c);

(ii) a deed, trust document, articles of incorporation, lease or other document acceptable to the director evidencing that the individual or entity seeking certification is the lawful owner or lessee of the parcel where the housing shall be located; and

(iii) a certificate issued pursuant to section 23 of chapter 60 indicating that there are no taxes or other assessments that constitute liens on the parcel of real estate upon which the housing shall be located.

(e) The director shall periodically evaluate the quality of training being provided to operators seeking certification and the integrity and efficacy of the accreditation program.

(f) The bureau shall prepare, publish and disseminate a list of alcohol and drug free housing certified pursuant to this section; provided, however, that the list shall be updated bimonthly. The list shall be disseminated to the director of the division of drug rehabilitation and to each state agency or vendor with a statewide contract that provides substance use disorder treatment services. The commissioner of probation shall inform all district and superior court probation officers and the chief justice of the trial court shall inform all district and superior court judges on how to access the list. The list shall also be posted on the website established pursuant to section 18.

(g) The department, in consultation with the bureau, shall promulgate rules and regulations to implement this section that shall include a process for receiving complaints against certified alcohol and drug free housing and criteria by which the director may exclude a residence from the list prepared under subsection (f) if the frequency and severity of complaints received supports a determination that the alcohol and drug free housing in question does not maintain standards or provide an environment that appropriately supports the recovery goals of its residents.

[Subsection (h) added by 2014, 165, Sec. 37 effective June 1, 2015. See 2014, 165, Sec. 287.]

(h) A state agency or vendor with a statewide contract that is providing treatment or services to a person, or a state agency or officer setting terms and conditions for the release, parole or discharge of a person from custody or treatment, shall not refer that person to alcohol and drug free housing and shall not otherwise include in such terms and conditions a referral to alcohol and drug free housing unless the alcohol and drug free housing is certified pursuant to this section. Nothing in this section shall prohibit a residence that has not received certification from operating or advertising as alcohol and drug free housing or from offering residence to persons recovering from substance use disorders.

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