The Arizona Battle Over Sober Living Homes

Prescott Courthouse Plaza (Photo: David Jones/Flickr)
Prescott Courthouse Plaza (Photo: David Jones/Flickr)

Prescott in northern Arizona is somewhat of an addiction treatment hub. The Yavapai county seat with about 40,000 residents is also home to an estimated 130-200 rehab facilities. Some people in Prescott think that’s too many. One problem is that many in Prescott do not really distinguish between fully licensed residential treatment centers and the independently operated sober living houses in residential neighborhoods that are mostly unregulated.

The city council is currently considering a new law to change that. It allows the city to register and regulate sober living homes perceived to create problems in residential neighborhoods.

The Associated Press reports that neighbors have been complaining about “loud music, foul language and cigarette butts emanating from sober living homes. While residents say they believe addicts deserve help, many take a ‘not in my backyard’ stance on the homes.”

The new law, signed by Governor Doug Ducey in May, will go into effect in August and allows municipalities like Prescott to require sober living homes to meet certain quality standards. Decision Point Center has been in Prescott since 2002 and fully supports the effort to make the mostly unregulated sober living houses more accountable.

There are far too many treatment providers in Prescott that do not provide good quality therapy,” says Decision Point CEO Paul Auchterlonie. “They’re not qualified, they’re not licensed, and they lack medical expertise.” Unfortunately, they also give highly qualified treatment providers a bad name. Quite different from the sober living homes, Decision Point invested significantly into infrastructure and accreditations to become a superior residential rehab center.

“We want the bar to be raised,” says Auchterlonie. “Decision Point is the most licensed and credentialed addiction treatment facility in Prescott. We have Joint Commission accreditation and we have a medically managed detox facility. Our patients can rely on two psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, and therapists with master’s degrees. We are completely licensed by the state of Arizona as a residential facility and we are not a sober living residence.”

Auchterlonie takes pride in the quality addiction treatment provided at Decision Point. “We worked hard to obtain these qualifications and accreditations.” he says. Auchterlonie has over 25 years in the field of behavioral healthcare and education and when he took the reins at Decision Point last year, his goal was to make it the most qualified rehab center for assessment and evaluation, residential treatment and detox in northern Arizona.

Auchterlonie feels that more needs to be done to allow people in need to differentiate between qualified and experienced, licensed centers and less-equipped and less credentialed sober living facilities unable to provide the array of services offered by a full-service, medically oriented residential treatment center.

Prescott is sometimes known as Arizona’s Recovery City. As in many parts of the country, there are several committed and highly qualified treatment facilities. At the same time, there are many more “care providers” offering few resources and questionable care with very little state oversight. Not only does this pose a risk for people seeking care—it also makes the mission more difficult for Decision Point and other quality care providers by casting the whole field in a negative light.