Assembly bill would provide county-based investigator for complaints about sober-living facilities

A state investigator would be responsible for responding to complaints against licensed addiction treatment and recovery facilities in Orange County under a proposed pilot program outlined in a new Assembly bill.

Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton) introduced legislation pitching the program last month.

If passed, her Assembly Bill 572 would require the state Department of Health Care Services to place an investigator “within a participating county” to look into reports of problems with licensed adult alcoholism and drug-abuse treatment and recovery facilities.

That would include Orange County, the bill states, as long as the Board of Supervisors elects to join the effort.

Sober-living homes have been a controversial topic for years in Costa Mesa and other cities throughout Orange County. Critics say they can disrupt neighborhoods and contribute to parking and traffic problems, crime, noise and other negative effects.

Some have decried the number of sober-living facilities in Costa Mesa, where, as of October, there were 83 state-licensed drug and alcohol facilities and 95 others considered sober-living homes, according to the city.

Supporters and operators of such facilities say they work to be good neighbors and provide a needed service by giving people a safe and secure place to maintain an alcohol- and drug-free lifestyle.

According to the city of Costa Mesa, having a county-based investigator “would be an added resource for cities, helping them to enforce state and local regulations and provide patients with better outcomes.”

“Currently, enforcement officers are located in Sacramento, making local and timely enforcement difficult,” according to Costa Mesa’s City Hall Snapshot, a weekly rundown of news items and other local information.

Under Quirk-Silva’s bill, the county would reimburse the Department of Health Care Services for the cost of the investigator’s compensation and benefits, as well as provide office space and other amenities as needed.

As envisioned, the pilot program would be completed by the end of 2019. A report on its effectiveness — as well as recommendations for future actions — would be due to the Legislature by July 1, 2020.

AB 572 is awaiting review by the Assembly Health Committee.

Twitter: @LukeMMoney