Falmouth Forum on Addiction Recovery, Sober Homes Draws Mixed Reaction

FALMOUTH – Several residents credited sober houses for saving their lives during a public forum last week in Falmouth.

The Board of Selectmen hosted the forum to gather input from the public on addiction recovery and sober houses.

The gathering was also attended by members of the board of health and human services departments, police and fire officials, state representatives, and members of the Falmouth Substance Abuse Committee.

Town attorney Frank Duffy said that sober houses are subject to the Fair Housing Act as those recovering from addiction are protected and cannot be discriminated against with zoning bylaws.

Resident Michael Heylin asked officials to consider zoning similar to Costa Mesa, California.

He said they passed a zoning bylaw that limits the number of residents in sober homes to six, with a full-time manager, for safety purposes.

“There are ways to zone sober homes to protect residents of the sober homes and limit the number of people in sober homes,” Heylin said.

Duffy said that Massachusetts towns are not allowed to the use the zoning bylaw in such a way.

Two sober homes brought lawsuits against Falmouth in 2001 for limiting the number of residents in sober homes. They resulted in settlements.

The feedback wasn’t all positive as resident Diana Mota questioned the town attorney on whether sober homes are subject to the Fair Housing Act and if addicts are considered disabled.

“Do you know that the ADA does not consider active addiction to be a disablility, neither does the FHAA?” Mota said. “Google it!”

Mota said the residents of her neighborhood are being discriminated against for having to put up with illegal activity associated with addiction recovery and sober homes.

“You guys want to know how many people are from out-of-town?” she asked. “Would you like to see the papers with all the license plates that I have written down of people coming in and out of my neighborhood selling drugs? We have people prostituting at the top of my road.”

Officials said there are 17 homes in the town that house 175 individuals in recovery.

Police Chief Ed Dunne said officers have responded to nearly 400 calls from sober homes since 2016, along with 92 calls to Recovering Champions, 253 from Gosnold Treatment Center and 15 from the Miller House.

Those calls make up 0.6 percent of the calls that came into the police station of the last three and ½ years.

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