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Pennsylvanias licensed recovery homes hit 350

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(The Center Square) — Hundreds of recovery houses have been licensed in Pennsylvania, but officials are encouraging more to sign up for official status as the impact of the opioid crisis grows nationally.

The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs on Tuesday celebrated how almost 350 recovery houses have been licensed, meeting certain standards and qualifying them for certain grants and benefits.

“The Shapiro Administration is dedicated to ensuring that Pennsylvanians are supported through all phases of their recovery journey and that whatever recovery road they choose to walk on is paved in opportunity,” DDAP Secretary Latika Davis-Jones said on a visit to We Have a Choice “Justin’s House” for Men, the first licensed recovery house. “We have to ensure that there are recovery housing standards and protections, and having the licensure program is a significant step in ensuring safe, supportive housing for Pennsylvanians in recovery.”

DDAP provides a list of licensed houses and has provided $600,000 in funds to fix up some in the past.

“Addressing the opioid and overdose public health crises must include effective, evidence-based strategies in (substance use disorder) prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery – a full spectrum of services and supports,” Davis-Jones said.

Recovery houses have been slow, however, to get licensed, coming in well below what former Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration had estimated.

“Recovery house licensure is vital so that every person with a substance use disorder has the opportunity to go to a safe place to recover,” said Kenneth Ramirez, executive director of We Have a Choice Recovery House. “Treatment providers, family members, and the community need to be reassured that clients aren’t being placed in dangerous situations by being referred to unlicensed and unregulated recovery homes. DDAP’s recovery house regulations are in place to provide that safety for a vulnerable population.”

Pennsylvania has been particularly hard-hit by opioid deaths. The commonwealth was 4th nationally in drug overdose deaths with 5,449 in 2021, and 9th in death rate. Nationally, more than 321,000 children lost a parent to a drug overdose from 2011-2021.

Illicit drug use has shifted from plant-based drugs to synthetic drugs, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“This shift has resulted in the most dangerous and deadly drug crisis the United States has ever faced,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram wrote in an agency assessment. “These synthetic drugs, such as fentanyl and methamphetamine, are responsible for nearly all of the fatal drug poisonings in our nation.”