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California Bill Would Allow Funding for Drug-Free Recovery Homes

California Bill Would Allow Funding for Drug-Free Recovery Homes

An outreach volunteer checks on the well-being of homeless drug addicts in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco on May 16, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock

5/24/2024

Updated: 5/27/2024

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For nearly a decade, drug-free recovery centers in California have been cut off from state funds after a “housing first” model was adopted, prioritizing housing for the homeless over sobriety.
But as the state still faces a drug and homelessness crisis, lawmakers have realized a change is needed.
Assembly Bill 2479, authored by Assemblyman Matt Haney, could allow 25 percent of the state’s housing funds to be redirected to drug treatment facilities that require sobriety, veering away from the current housing-first model.
“With the deadly, devastating impact of fentanyl, our goal must always be to help people get off of and away from deadly illegal drugs,” Mr. Haney said in an April 15 press release announcing the bill.
He said the state’s housing-first policy, adopted in 2016, prioritized getting people into housing with no credit, income, criminal background, or sobriety requirements. But that approach has led to fewer drug-free programs.
“We have to support people who are ready to take the next step in that journey of recovery, as part of a drug-free residential recovery community, and make sure those opportunities are available,” he said.
In 2022 the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development modified its own housing-first guidelines, now including drug-free programs, but California has yet to update its own law to follow the recommendations and prevented state funding for such programs from kicking in.
As a result, many on the path to sobriety are forced to live in housing that allows drugs, which can put them at risk of relapse and overdose. In San Francisco last year, 68 percent of overdoses were at fixed addresses, many of which were so-called “harm reduction” facilities, which follow a housing-first model, according to the press release.
“Many people seeking recovery don’t want to live next to others who are still using drugs, and they shouldn’t be forced to,” Mr. Haney said.
San Francisco-based recovery advocate Joshua Brathwaite said in the same announcement that he has struggled to find good programming to stay sober because of the state’s current model.
“I’ve been sober for 16 months, but I can’t find any available drug-free housing that can give me the programming and support I need to continue being sober. … I’m in danger of relapsing and falling back into a cycle I fought so hard to get out of,” he said.
While the law would allow a quarter of housing funds to go toward drug-free housing, the bill also requires facilities that receive the funding to offer solutions to patients who relapse—instead of kicking them out—such as detoxification programs and peer to peer support, according to Mr. Haney’s office.
Limiting the amount of funding to just 25 percent allows the state to continue its current “harm reduction” approach, according to lawmakers in a recent Assembly Floor analysis of the bill.
Under that approach, homeless and substance abuse services focus on “meeting people where they are,” by offering smoking pipes, needles, supervised drug use, overdose medication, and other tools to prevent drug overdoses and the spread of deadly diseases, according to the state’s Department of Public Health.
But the approach has often been criticized by recovery experts, who say it only leads to death.
“We’re totally against the harm-reduction model. We believe it’s deadly and it’s the [reason] nearly one-half of the unsheltered people in the U.S. are in California,” Andy Bales, former CEO of the Christian-based Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles’ Skid Row, told The Epoch Times in an interview last year.
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Rudy Blalock

Rudy Blalock

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Rudy Blalock is a Southern California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times. Originally from Michigan, he moved to California in 2017, and the sunshine and ocean have kept him here since. In his free time, he may be found underwater scuba diving, on top of a mountain hiking or snowboarding—or at home meditating, which helps fuel his active lifestyle.

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