1 PENNSYLVANIA HOUSE HUMAN SERVICES COMMITTEE HEARING ON RECOVERY HOUSING MIDDLETOWN TOWNSHIP MUNICIPAL BUILDING LANGHORNE, PENNSYLVANIA Proceedings held at the Middletown Township Municipal Building, Municipal Way, Langhorne, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday, October,, commencing at approximately :0 a.m., before Barbara McKeon Quinn, a Registered Merit Reporter and Notary Public, pursuant to notice.
2 PUBLIC HEARING, // BEFORE: GENE DiGIROLAMO, MAJORITY CHAIRMAN REPRESENTATIVE THOMAS P. MURT REPRESENTATIVE BERNIE O'NEILL REPRESENTATIVE TINA DAVIS REPRESENTATIVE FRANK FARRY ANGEL CRUZ, MINORITY CHAIRMAN REPRESENTATIVE STEPHEN KINSEY REPRESENTATIVE MADELEINE DEAN ALSO PRESENT: Melanie Brown, Human Services Committee staff Ashley McCahan, Human Services Committee staff
3 PUBLIC HEARING, // INDEX OF SPEAKERS CHAIRMAN GENE DiGIROLAMO BY REPRESENTATIVE FARRY BY REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS BY THE CHAIR BY THE CHAIR (On behalf of Gary Tennis) BY TED MILLARD BY FRED WAY BY AMY MERICLE BY KEVIN DIPPOLITO 0 BY AMBER LONGHITANO BY JOSEPH W. PIZZO BY DIANE W. ROSATI BY REPRESENTATIVE DEAN
4 PUBLIC HEARING, // THE CHAIR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the hearing of the Human Services Committee. And the first order of business I would like to ask everyone if they would rise and we'll recite the Pledge of Allegiance. (Pledge of Allegiance.) THE CHAIR: Okay. For the first order of business, I thought maybe we'll just go down the line and ask the members who are present here today and staff to just say hello and let everybody know who they are and what district they come from. And we can start with Tina. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS: Good morning. Tina Davis,, right next to Frank and Gene. Thanks. REPRESENTATIVE O'NEILL: Good morning. I'm Bernie O'Neill. I represent the center of Bucks County, Upper Southampton, Warminster area and I go right up to the river of New Hope borough, the th district. REPRESENTATIVE MURT: Good morning. My name's Tom Murt. I represent part of eastern Montgomery County and part of Northeast Philadelphia. REPRESENTATIVE FARRY: Frank Farry, nd District from right here in Middletown. I'd also like to thank Middletown Township Manager, Stephanie Teoli, for hosting us here today.
5 PUBLIC HEARING, // THE CHAIR: Gene DiGirolamo. I represent the th District, which is right here in Bucks County, and I'm the Republican chairman of the committee. MELANIE BROWN: Hi, I'm Melanie Brown. I direct the committee on human services. REPRESENTATIVE KINSEY: Good morning. My name is State Representative Stephen Kinsey, Philadelphia County, st legislative district. ASHLEY McCAHAN: Services Committee staff. Ashley McCahan, Human THE CHAIR: Okay. I'd like to welcome the members and the staff and everybody who's present here in the audience. I think we're going to have a really good hearing today and I think it's an important hearing. We're holding the hearing on behalves of Representative Frank Farry and Representative Tina Davis here in Bucks County. And the hearing is really about Representative Farry's bill, which is House Bill, and I think we're going to hear some really good testimony today hopefully on the differences between halfway houses and recovery houses and Representative Farry's effort to try to bring some guidelines, some types of state guidelines to the recovery houses that have been popping up not only here in Bucks County but
6 PUBLIC HEARING, // also all across the state. I believe there are some -- some of them are really good when they're run properly, they're really necessary, but we've heard some stories and rumors about some bad ones popping up and we'd like to somehow bring some guidelines and give some relief to the residents. So with that I'm going to open up and let Representative Frank Farry, he asked for some opening remarks. REPRESENTATIVE FARRY: Thank you, Chairman. House Bill is some very basic legislation which amends existing law. The bill will allow the Department of Drug and Alcohol to promulgate regulations regarding housing programs that offer assistance to people with drug or alcohol abuse problems sometimes referred to as recovery houses. The regulation shall include, but not be limited to, a definition of a recovery house, rights of inspection, assignments of rights of inspection, and penalties when violations of a departmental regulation occur. In order to receive any federal or state funding, a recovery house must comply with regulations promulgated by the Department of Drug and Alcohol
7 PUBLIC HEARING, // programs. This issue came to light because of some matters that arose here in Middletown, and I know Representative Davis has many more recovery houses in her legislative district. We know how important recovery houses are in the recovery process, and by all means we want to ensure those recovery houses that are run on the up and up, you know, have the protections they need. I think a greater concern are unfortunately there's some folks that are running more so fly-by-night recovery homes, and when they're located in our residential communities it gives rise to great concern. So I look forward to the testimony here today. I think we have a broad base of panelists that are going to provide some very important information and hopefully we can move forward with this legislation and help those that are in recovery with what they need as well as ensuring they're properly protected. THE CHAIR: Thank you. We'd like to also recognize in the audience Sean Schafer from Senator Tommy Tomlinson's office.
8 PUBLIC HEARING, // With that I'll recognize Representative Tina Davis for opening remarks. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIS: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and Rep Farry and the committee members for holding this hearing. I just want to let people know I came from a local government background, so I've been dealing with this issue probably for about eight years now. So I'm very excited about the bill that you're going to be hearing about today. The current situation serves no one, not the patient seeking recovery from drug or alcohol addictions and not the conscientious providers trying to provide beneficial services, and definitely not the communities and the residents who are harmed by the lack of oversight and safeguards. The crash of the housing market in '0 and the corresponding foreclosure and tax sales have enabled speculators to buy homes cheaply, turn them into recovery homes. They are able to charge a resident 0 to 0 dollars a week. Do the math. If you have seven residents in a home, the income per month is over $,000. I have many blocks that have two and three on each block. Does anyone care to guess how that could
9 PUBLIC HEARING, // affect the prices of the surrounding homes and a potential buyer? For me in my district, I can receive anywhere from to calls or s a week with complaints. The most recent one came just yesterday. I would like to read a quote. is the quote. I do not want to -- this I do not want to sound hypocritical. I believe that people deserve second chances, but it is also -- but I also believe that there should be some type of notification. This is a major safety concern. Are there background checks being done? Why are the neighbors not notified? Unquote. I asked my local L & I department whether the applicant was required to show proof that they were a recovery home, and they replied no. It must be noted that there are many property owners who are legitimately trying to help people with drug and alcohol problems. Unfortunately, for every good recovery home, we have ten that do not monitor their tenants. Rep Farry's bill is a common sense, first step to fix this. The bill would give the state the
10 PUBLIC HEARING, // authority to identify and regulate these recovery homes. It would establish inspections and devise penalties when the recovery homes fail to provide the services needed and promised. It would protect taxpayers by requiring recovery homes to comply with reasonable rules and goals before federal or state funding can be awarded. Unfortunately, the Fair Housing Act has had the unintended consequence of hamstringing our municipalities' abilities to deal with recovery houses in a responsible and needed manner. So thank you for hearing this and I'm excited. THE CHAIR: Okay. Thank you, Representative Davis. And to start off, Secretary of our Department of Drug and Alcohol program, Gary Tennis, was not able to be with us this morning, but he submitted testimony and he asked if I would read it before the hearing starts, and I'm going to do that. It's only about a page and a half; it will take a couple minutes. And I think it's important to have his testimony read into the record. Thank you, Chairman DiGirolamo, and members of the committee for giving --
11 PUBLIC HEARING, // Oh, excuse me. I would also like to recognize Representative Madeleine Dean who's here today. Madeleine, welcome from Montgomery County. REPRESENTATIVE DEAN: Thank you. THE CHAIR: Thank you, Chairman DiGirolamo, and members of the committee for giving attention to the important issue of recovery houses for those who are in early recovery from the disease of drug and alcohol addiction. This has been a critically important issue where significant strides have been made over the past quarter of a century and where a number of challenges were presented to federal, state and local government policymakers. The Department of Drug and Alcohol programs list the issue of recovery housing among the many important issues that need careful review, analysis and restatement of policy and practice from the department's perspective. We are currently in negotiations with the Pennsylvania Recovery Organizational Alliance, PRO-A, to have the alliance work with stakeholders to review some of the opportunities and challenges presented in this arena and to make recommendations to the department. Some principles that are likely to guide
12 PUBLIC HEARING, // our deliberations are enumerated below. Number, treatment of this chronic recurring disease must be comprehensive. Those who are transitioning from inpatient to outpatient treatment and those who are completing their formal regimen of treatment all together will fare much better in maintaining their lives of recovery if they live in a drug-free housing environment that is recovery supportive, not recovery hostile. And I think that is really, really important. Number. We must continue to examine funding levels for addiction treatment. National statistics tell us current funding is able to treat one individual for every ten suffering from addiction. Here in Pennsylvania funding levels allow us to treat one out of every eight in need. Understanding that demand continues to outpace our resources, it is critical that the treatment funding we do have to be used for addiction treatment. We must be proactive in working to ensure the public and other funding for recovery housing is paid through housing dollars. Number. Recovery housing should not be considered a substitute for clinically appropriate
13 PUBLIC HEARING, // addiction treatment. It is understandable to want to find ways to maximize the effectiveness of our limited resources, but we should not do so in a manner that may result in undertreatment of the disease. An example of this may be an attempt to inappropriately undertreat individuals who are determined by a full assessment and application of the Pennsylvania Client Placement criteria to be in need of residential treatment, including licensed halfway houses with outpatient plus recovery housing. Unfortunately, there is no research showing that undertreatment works even with the addition of recovery housing. In the absence of clinical evidence for that approach, we must ensure that treatment is conducted with evidence-based clinical integrity. When clinically appropriate treatment occurs, we are convinced that good recovery housing for this group can make good outcomes even better. Number. The appropriateness and reach of governmental regulation depends on whether there are public funds involved. For example, if a landlord prefers to rent to recovering people, takes no public funds but instead
14 PUBLIC HEARING, // is paid rent by his recovering tenants in the normal fashion, then it would appear that the legitimate scope of government regulations should be that applied to any residential landlord tenant situation, Licensing & Inspection for example. If taxpayer dollars are funding recovery housing, then the public is entitled to insist that certain minimal standards are met in order to optimize the prospect for continued recovery and in general the best interest of the public client. The Department of Drug and Alcohol program believes that these minimal standards must be met and intends to work with PRO-A, the Pennsylvania Association of County Drug and Alcohol Directors, the Drug and Alcohol Service Providers of Pennsylvania, the Rehabilitation Community Providers Association, and other interested stakeholders to establish those standards. In conclusion, please accept my appreciation, Chairman DiGirolamo, and the members of the committee for permitting me to submit written testimony to you on this important issue. And I am available at this phone number and address, and his testimony is in the packets for anybody that would like to contact Secretary Gary Tennis. Okay. With that, I'd like to call up our
15 PUBLIC HEARING, // first testifier who is Ted Millard, who is the executive director of Good Friends, which is a halfway house here in Bucks County. And just to set one guideline for the hearing today, it's my intention to allow everyone to testify first and then at the end of the testimony if everyone could stick around if we have time before o'clock, I'd like to open it up for questions and answers at the end. With that, Ted, you can begin whenever you're ready. TED MILLARD: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this important hearing. My name is Ted Millard. I am the executive director of Good Friends, Incorporated, a licensed residential substance abuse treatment facility here in beautiful Bucks County. For those unfamiliar with our agency, I will quote the Bucks County Drug and Alcohol Commission who wrote, This organization is a model within its scope of business and is one of the leaders in the provision of halfway house treatment in the state. And within that quote is the reason I appear before you today. The term halfway house, as it
16 PUBLIC HEARING, // is commonly confused with the focus of this bill, a recovery house. Halfway houses are assumed by many to be recovery houses. As a past president of the Pennsylvania Halfway House Association, I can attest to the numerous telephone calls my counterparts and I have received from citizens looking for a bed in a recovery house, or thinking we are an arm of the criminal justice system as a program for inmates leaving prison, and there is good reason for this confusion. As state sponsored alcoholism programs expanded in the 0s, concerns grew about how a person would maintain their early recovery as they made the transition from a residential institution back into their community. This created new social settings that provided residential support designed to aid community reentry and the term halfway house was brought into our field's language. These were homeowners opening their homes to support friends and fellow citizens transitioning back from rehab. Some of these new homes branched off to form professional centers. Soon afterwards national advocacy
17 PUBLIC HEARING, // organizations formed to support this movement, the oldest being The Association of Halfway House Alcoholism Programs of North America. Good Friends, Incorporated was a member of this association along with many of the presently licensed halfway house organizations in Pennsylvania. In the past, Pennsylvania's Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Programs and the Division of Drug and Alcohol Program Licensing each held full memberships in this organization. As the professional development of halfway houses grew, it did not replace the community citizens who shared their living quarters with the newly sober individual as there was a need for both. But both factions often use the same name, halfway house, but now each meant a different thing. The concept of transitioning folks into a community based halfway house became more confusing as the criminal justice system also adopted the term halfway house for their particular use. So from the idea of supporting the newly sober alcoholic, across our nation halfway houses have come to encompass very different things. But in Pennsylvania there is one stark difference. In our Commonwealth the term halfway house
18 PUBLIC HEARING, // is based in substance abuse legislation. By law a halfway house must be a licensed nonhospital residential treatment and rehabilitation facility that provides a home-like atmosphere within the local community. Its comprehensive license regulations include its business structure, treatment activities, staff member qualifications, and physical plant standards for health and safety. These regulations are reviewed on a yearly basis with on site inspections conducted by the Department of Drug and Alcohol Program's Division of Program Licensure. Each halfway house treatment program also hosts yearly on-site inspections from its contracting single county authority, and the specific requirements under their jurisdiction as well as inspections from each managed care company it contracts with under the HealthChoices Program. But this doesn't stop the confusion over what is a recovery house and what is a halfway house, and I certainly understand why. If a person wants to get information about halfway houses they can use Google as a search engine and type in halfway house.
19 PUBLIC HEARING, // They'll see ten first-page entries, five that relate to recovery housing, including halfwayhouse.com, three involve news articles linked to a criminal justice halfway housing, one is a link to a Wikipedia definition that notes they are for persons recently released from jail or a mental institution, and the last refers to Halfway House, Pennsylvania, a city of,000 people in Montgomery County. Use ehow.com and it says halfway houses, also called sober houses or sober living, can be the difference between a successful drug treatment episode and relapse. If you are looking to develop a halfway house, then maybe you go to the United States Small Business Administration's website where you will find this title: Resources for Starting a Halfway House or Transitional Housing Facility. It then provides you with its definition. Transitional housing provides people with a temporary place to live as they attempt to get back on their feet or make a major transition in their life. Yes, all of this can be quite confusing to a citizen in Pennsylvania. Because of this confusion I appreciate the opportunity to speak today to clarify the difference
20 PUBLIC HEARING, // between a licensed halfway house treatment program and a recovery house in Pennsylvania. As Representative Farry's February th memo to house members noted, there is presently no definition of a recovery house in Pennsylvania, nor is it currently regulated. As reviewed here, both the definition and regulations for a halfway house are already on the book. It's the confusion that remains. But I am also here to support quality recovery housing. Our agency refers clients to certain recovery houses as we find their services can be an essential part of the recovery process for some individuals. But as you know, recovery houses vary greatly in condition. As a referring provider, I want to be confident that we are referring a client to a place that is safe, appropriately maintained, and beneficial to the client's recovery process. The development of recovery house standards is a positive step in this direction. I believe Commonwealth dollars should only be accessible to recovery houses that meet these developed standards, and I want to be confident that people in need of treatment are being placed in the
21 PUBLIC HEARING, // appropriate level of care consistent with the Pennsylvania Client Placement Criteria before their entrance into a recovery house. A placement into a recovery house should never be made in lieu of licensed addiction treatment services. Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. THE CHAIR: Okay. Ted, thank you very much and I would appreciate if you could stick around for a little bit in case there are some questions later on. Next we have Fred Way, who's the executive director for the Philadelphia Association of Recovery Residences and also with him is Amy Mericle. Welcome, Fred and Amy. Good to see the both of you. And whenever you're ready, you can begin. FRED WAY: Good morning. We're here to talk about recovery residences and also the -- also, I must also say that I am the vice president of the National Association of Recovery Residences also. So, therefore, I see recovery houses throughout the United States. Okay? And the issues that we're having here, okay, are no different than a lot of other states that are going on right now.
22 PUBLIC HEARING, // One of the goals of PARR, you know, is to decrease stigma, you know, around recovery housing and creating standards within the recovery housing which has been the thing that we have been doing for the last year. In the City of Philadelphia there are two major distinctions within a recovery home network. Some homes receive funding from the Philadelphia Office of Addiction Services, but the vast majority of the homes do not, and those are the vast majority that PARR is working with. Homes that receive funding from OAS must verify licensing compliance as well as proof of ownership of the property, general liability insurance, proof of current utility bills, and proof of a 0(c)() or a nonprofit designation before they can receive funding. The OAS funded houses have direct oversight. Referrals are generated through the Housing Initiative Office and the houses have staff coverage around the clock. Heretofore, neither oversight nor support exists in the unfunded homes. Our mission at PARR is to create, evaluate and improve standards in terms of quality of all recovery residences. PARR provides a forum for its changing
23 PUBLIC HEARING, // ideas to include and develop uniformity in our field of problem solving and advocacy. Also, for years I worked for the Office of Addiction Services and I've overseen the funding system, okay, so I've seen the funded houses and now I'm working with the unfunded houses. And believe me, at this point with PARR, I have certified houses that meet the standards of a Level and there are another that's in the process or stages of trying to get their house to be able to meet those standards. So the operators of these houses are willing to adhere to standards; it's just a matter of working with them and developing them as far as, you know, their business. I have with me Dr. Mericle who -- and also in the packet that I sent you guys have, there's a few things in there. Dr. Mericle is conducting a study in Philadelphia, and I will let her talk to you about that very briefly. AMY MERICLE: Thank you. As Fred mentioned, my name is Amy Mericle. I'm a health services researcher specializing in addiction health services research, and I'm here today to talk about my work, my research on
24 PUBLIC HEARING, // recovery residences. Fred mentioned that in your packet is a Policy Statement on recovery residences that I co-authored with Lenny Jason who's done research on Oxford Houses as well as Doug Polcin who's done research on sober living houses in California, and Bill White, who is a well-known substance abuse treatment researcher. What this document does is, it very clearly describes and defines what a recovery residence is. For example, in the second paragraph, Recovery residences, which go by the names of sober living houses, recovery homes and Oxford Houses, are sober, safe and healthy living environments that promote recovery from alcohol and drug use and associated problems. At a minimum recovery residences offer peer-to-peer recovery support with some providing professionally delivered services and clinical services all aimed at promoting abstinence and long-term recovery. So you can see in that definition there is a range of different types of recovery residences. Again, at a minimum, it provides peer-to-peer support, but at the other end of the spectrum they can provide much more.
25 PUBLIC HEARING, // So I think that in talking about recovery residences, it's important to keep in mind that there are different types so that there is a range of a continuum of services that can be received in recovery residences. The next paragraph of this position statement talks about the research on recovery residences. enough. And, unfortunately, there hasn't been My colleague, Lenny Jason, has been over the past decade been researching Oxford Houses. And at this point there's a really good base, literature base on the advocacy of Oxford Houses. In fact, it's on NREPP's list of evidence-based practices. But that's just one type of recovery residence, the Oxford House. There are also different - or other types of recovery residences as well. So my other colleague, who's a co-author on this paper, Doug Polcin, has done research on sober living houses in California. And his work also shows very promising results about the effectiveness of sober living houses in California. Unfortunately, there is little else out there in terms of research on recovery residences, which
26 PUBLIC HEARING, // is unfortunate, but I'm hoping to fill that gap with my research on recovery residences in Philadelphia, and I'll tell you a little bit more about that. What this statement goes on to say is that after reviewing what a recovery residence is, the literature base on them, it outlines a direction to proceed in terms of promoting and supporting recovery residences. And the policy statement really has four groups of recommendations. The first recommendation is really about support of recovery residences, and that's about funding. As researchers we were very keen to hop on recommendations with regard to research, but we can't research them and establish their effectiveness and efficacy if they don't exist. And it's very hard for recovery residences to be out there because of lack of funding for them but also because of stigma. So one of the recommendations in this report is also for advocacy, recovery home advocacy, recovery residence advocacy, trying to educate the public about what recovery residences are, what they do, to increase support for them. And then the other recommendation that is
27 PUBLIC HEARING, // in there is about training and education to help provide professionals knowledge for what they need to do in order to run a recovery residence. So in my work in Philadelphia, I received funding from the Department of Health here in Pennsylvania to study recovery residences in Philadelphia. What we did was we drew a stratified random sample of homes in Philadelphia, actually homes, and the first part of that process was trying to map or to identify all of the recovery residences in Philadelphia, and there are quite a few. Working from a list that the city had put together from their work mapping recovery residences and recovery homes and recovery resources and from the work that Fred did with the Philadelphia Association of Recovery Residences, PARR, we had a listing of almost 00 houses. We tried to contact each and every one of those houses to see if they were still around, to get more information about the clients they served, and whether or not they would be eligible to be part of our study. After we went through that process we whittled the list down to about 0-odd recovery homes in
28 Philadelphia. PUBLIC HEARING, // That's quite a bit. But we were able to sample from that houses that we studied basically by talking with the recovery home operator. So it could have been the owner of the house, it could have been the house manager, it could have been the director. But basically we wanted to get a sense of what they were doing in their houses, what kinds of services they were providing, what kinds of clients they accepted into their programs, and actually what happened in the houses in terms of treatment or after-care, things like that. And what we found actually was that - and, again, this is based on what the providers or the recovery house operators were telling us, was that most of them operate in a very therapeutically oriented manner. They had rules and regulations for their residents. They provided a range of services. They required their clients to either be attending self-help meetings or to be attending treatment. It was definitely -- it was very therapeutically oriented. But we also heard from them about all of
29 PUBLIC HEARING, // the obstacles that they encountered in trying to operate these homes, and most of that was perceptions and stigma about addiction, about what they were trying to do with their houses. Now, as part of that study we also collected data from residents. We conducted focus groups with over 0 residents in different houses, and we conducted focus groups with alumni who used to live in recovery houses. And we were also able to follow up with residents who participated in these focus groups three months later to see how they were doing. Now we're still analyzing the data that we got from the residents, and I don't want to say too much, but what I can say is that the theme of stigma was also something that the residents brought up. And one of the things that I heard most frequently was that they wished that people realized that recovery homes were part of the solution and not part of the problem; that they were people who were trying to change their lives, to turn their lives around, and just wanted to have a second chance. So I hope to have more of my findings out soon, but it's been a pleasure to talk with this group and to share what I've learned about recovery homes in
30 0 PUBLIC HEARING, // Philadelphia. you. So thank you and thank you, Fred. THE CHAIR: Okay. Fred and Amy, thank I would appreciate if the both of you could hang around for a little bit, because I'm sure there's going to be some questions for you. Thank you for very good testimony. Next we have Kevin Dippolito, who's the fire marshal and emergency management director for Bristol Township, and also along with him I believe Amber Longhitano, who is a council person in Bristol Township also going to testify, and also I'd like to recognize Craig Bowen who's in attendance this morning -- Craig, welcome -- who's also on council in Bristol Township. Kevin, you can begin whenever you like. KEVIN DIPPOLITO: Thank you. I was asked to come before you today to speak on fire safety issues with -- directly related to recovery homes. In Bristol Township you may or may not know already we have approximately 0 recovery homes in the township. When they first come into the township, they go through a proper process of getting registered with the township, being told how many people they can have in their home, but unfortunately right now those
31 PUBLIC HEARING, // homes are not required to have automatic fire alarm systems in them. The issue we have with this is, as the doctor said previous to me, folks go into these homes with the intent and hopes of having a safe and secure environment to go through their recovery process. I'd like to see that go a step further and have at the state level the requirement for monitored fire alarm systems in these homes. The reason I say that is, these folks are short-term most of the time in these homes. familiar with these houses. They're not They did not grow up in them, they cannot close their eyes and crawl from one end of the house to the other during a dark smoky fire condition. We need, that being the fire service, we need every moment we can get to effect a rescue in these homes if they are trapped in these houses. Unlike the City of Philadelphia, who has a fully staffed fire department that's ready to roll out the doors within 0 seconds or so, Bristol Township, like all of Bucks County, is primarily served by volunteer firefighters. Those trucks typically will not hit the street in the middle of the night when people are asleep
32 PUBLIC HEARING, // and most at risk for three to four minutes. Having automatic fire detection systems in these homes will accomplish several things. Number one, it will give notification to all occupants of the house no matter where they are located in the house because the systems will be tied together. So someone who is sleeping at one end of the house will be alerted to a fire at the far end. Unlike an individual stand-alone battery operated smoke detector which only beeps where the smoke is. A system that is all tied together interconnected will alert throughout the residence regardless of what floor they're on or what end of the building they're on giving them the most opportunity to get out of that house. In addition, that alarm system should or could send a signal to an alarm monitoring company which automatically dispatches the fire department. So while those folks are escaping the fire department is being notified by an automatic dialing system coming out of the control panel of the alarm system. That in turn gets the firefighters responding before one of those folks needs to find a
33 PUBLIC HEARING, // phone, because they may have escaped with only the clothes on their back, not grabbing their cell phones on the way out the door. That in itself would increase the life safety of these homes tremendously. In addition, if we had a state required annual inspection, the respective fire authority of that municipality would be able to make sure these fire alarm systems are upkept, that they're working properly, that fire extinguishers are placed in the homes where they should be. They have an opportunity to speak to the tenants of the house at that time for a very -- it may be brief, but it may be an opportunity to show them how to use a fire extinguisher, make sure they know where the fire extinguishers are located. So the other option that would give us would -- if there's an annual inspection program of these homes strictly for the safety of the residents, it would also give us the opportunity to make sure that the population in that house hasn't gone above what is permissible for the respective municipality. We have found in cases where areas that were previously not sleeping rooms have been converted into sleeping rooms.
34 PUBLIC HEARING, // This is not the case most of the time, but it has been the case a few times that I can think of where additional rooms that used to be a living space were chopped up and subdivided into additional living spaces. To the fire service, when we go to a residential house, we have a rough idea how many people might be trapped in that house. When we go to a recovery home, unless we are somewhat recently involved in having contact with that house, we may not know. We may have people in that home that we were not expecting to be in places where typically you're not going to find somebody sleeping. Assuming this is taking place in the middle of the night. For that an annual inspection, a safety inspection program, again, to ensure the safety of the occupants to go there with the intent of having a safe environment to go through their recovery, this would be undoubtedly beneficial to not only to their safety but the fire department who's going to respond to effect a rescue in the middle of the night. That's all. THE CHAIR: Amber. AMBER LONGHITANO: Thank you. I would
35 PUBLIC HEARING, // like to thank this distinguished committee, Chairman and Representative Farry for taking a stand to look at halfway houses and recovery homes at all. In Bristol Township of the immediate vicinity halfway houses/recovery homes we have four in Falls Township, we have nine in Bristol Borough, we have two in Middletown Township, and we have, as Kevin said, actually in Bristol Township. We believe in second chances and we believe that there is a need for recovery homes and halfway houses for individuals seeking to better their lives. However, we have a responsibility as elected officials for the lives that exist within our community. When you inundate a community with halfway houses, it puts a hardship on property value on the residents themselves and everybody including - (Technical difficulty.) Sorry about that. Okay. As I was saying, when you inundate a community with halfway houses, it affects the whole community and all of the residents within it. I'm asking this committee to go just one step further and try and look into, whether it be on a
36 PUBLIC HEARING, // state level or a federal level, some kind of regulations as to how many can exist within one community and within one neighborhood before it affects the whole community, and that is what is happening in Bristol Township. So I thank you very much for this opportunity to speak and I appreciate you taking a stand and I will look to you guys further for help. THE CHAIR: Since this is Fire Prevention Week and I know Kevin is not able to stay to the end of the meeting, I'm going to open it up to a couple of questions if anybody has any questions for Kevin or Amber. Any members of the committee have any questions? Representative Kinsey. REPRESENTATIVE KINSEY: Thank you, Mr. Chair. questions if you don't mind. For the fire marshal, I just have a few KEVIN DIPPOLITO: Yes, sir. REPRESENTATIVE KINSEY: I think you suggested setting up a -- I think when you were talking about the, I think it's the smoke detectors or the fire alarm system in the home? KEVIN DIPPOLITO: Uh-huh.
37 PUBLIC HEARING, // REPRESENTATIVE KINSEY: Do you have any estimation as to what the average cost might be? You're talking about hard wiring that? KEVIN DIPPOLITO: Correct. I'm talking about an actual fire alarm system with the smoke detectors interconnected. They now have some RF systems that communicate the RF frequency that don't require wiring. As a matter of fact, that's what I put in my house last year. They're phenomenal. They accomplish what needs to be done and that is unilateral activation throughout the house. I believe -- you're asking for a rough estimate? Is that it? REPRESENTATIVE KINSEY: Yes. KEVIN DIPPOLITO: I believe you could probably in most Levittown style homes put one in for,000, give or take. REPRESENTATIVE KINSEY: Okay. That's fairly reasonable. And the second question is, I think you had mentioned suggestion of an annual state required inspection. In your estimation -- well, I guess when you perceive that annual state required inspection, who
38 PUBLIC HEARING, // would be responsible for conducting that? Would that be the fire department? Would it be maybe a department of L & I or would it be the actual owner of the property? KEVIN DIPPOLITO: Well, if we utilize the Uniform Construction Code, as we have now in the State of Pennsylvania, each municipality has the option to either do it in house or contract out to a third-party depending on that particular area. The City of Philadelphia and Bristol Township, we have our own fire marshal offices and such. But you may be in a more rural area where they contract out to a third-party agency. As long as the inspections are getting done, you know, it's -- you know, whoever does it is fine as long as it's done efficiently and proficiently. REPRESENTATIVE KINSEY: I guess my concern was that if we allowed it to let's just say the operator of such property or even the property owner I guess the question - KEVIN DIPPOLITO: No. REPRESENTATIVE KINSEY: Okay. KEVIN DIPPOLITO: Yes. I'm sorry. I meant for that to take place by a fire official at some level.
39 PUBLIC HEARING, // REPRESENTATIVE KINSEY: Okay. Great. Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. THE CHAIR: Anybody else? being with us today. Representative O'Neill. REPRESENTATIVE O'NEILL: Thank you for I guess my question relates to zoning. I'm a former township supervisor. Aren't these residential recovery houses covered under the zoning ordinances? Aren't they considered institutional because you're - KEVIN DIPPOLITO: They are -- I can't say completely and intelligently about all the zoning ordinances of Bristol Township. responsibility. That is not within my What I do know is when they first become recovery homes, they go through a process at the township level. But once they go through that process, their only recurring contact with the township presently, as far as Bristol Township goes, is if they have a change of tenants. If they have a change of tenants they're supposed to notify the township for earned income tax reasons. But beyond that, there's -- there's little
40 0 PUBLIC HEARING, // contact with the township. REPRESENTATIVE O'NEILL: Really? I mean, I have to be honest with you, I'm at a loss for words for the lack of local control over this. I mean, there's so much local control over everything else. I mean, my district office is inspected every year, you know, and it seems like -- it seems like there's more restrictions on my office than there is in a residential institutional - Let me ask you this question. Do you have any group homes for the disabled in your community? KEVIN DIPPOLITO: Yes. REPRESENTATIVE O'NEILL: Are they covered under any such laws that you're speaking about right now? KEVIN DIPPOLITO: No. And I think they also deserve the same annual inspections that we're speaking of today for the recovery homes. These folks that you're now speaking of are often nonambulatory and need as much protection as they can get. REPRESENTATIVE O'NEILL: Sure. KEVIN DIPPOLITO: The difference here may be is that a lot of the homes that have nonambulatory persons living in them have home managers or some sort of
41 PUBLIC HEARING, // adult supervision to assist them. In the recovery style homes that's not the case from all my contacts. They typically live there, they govern themselves with -- without a house manager so to speak. REPRESENTATIVE O'NEILL: And I agree with you. I'm kind of surprised it doesn't exist. If I owned a home, I inherit, you know, a -bedroom home from my parents and I decide to rent the rooms out, I have to go through a process with the township. Would you have to, under current zoning laws or under any current township rules, come and inspect on a regular the safety because I'm renting those rooms out? KEVIN DIPPOLITO: No. No. There's no requirement for that to be done. REPRESENTATIVE O'NEILL: Okay. Thank you. KEVIN DIPPOLITO: You're welcome. If I may go back to one point you made about how your office would require an annual fire inspection. That's a very good point. We're talking about a place where no one sleeps, where the likelihood of human life being in danger during a fire being minimal. We are reducing the
42 PUBLIC HEARING, // chances of fire, but there's no life hazard there. Compared to a recovery home where we have a life hazard, often a high life hazard, and I equate this to some apartment buildings. There are some smaller apartment buildings that may have fewer people in them than a recovery home does. A small apartment may be an old home that was changed into an apartment building with common hallways could actually have less than some larger homes. So there's definitely a life hazard there that we'd like to eliminate. We're the fire service. We want to protect lives and property. first and foremost. Lives being the THE CHAIR: Representative Murt. REPRESENTATIVE MURT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for your testimony, Kevin. I have a question. And the question is, currently can a municipality enact a fire detection system requirement in Pennsylvania? KEVIN DIPPOLITO: I don't believe -- and, again, I'm speaking a little out of turn, because this would go towards licensing and inspections department and our zoning. But I do not believe, because they are considered rental properties under the current laws, that
43 PUBLIC HEARING, // they can enact that. done that already. I believe if we could we would have REPRESENTATIVE MURT: One other question, Mr. Chairman. You mentioned that in Bristol Township there's halfway houses. Is that an inordinate large amount? Is there some reason why Bristol Township would have so many houses within it? AMBER LONGHITANO: why Bristol Township had so many. I'm not sure exactly I think it's because there weren't ordinances in place. Some of the other townships and towns do have ordinances in play, and we are working on that right now as far as how many can exist in a residential home that are nonblood related and still call it a residence or a residential community. They've also implemented things like how many parking spots off street must be available per licensed driver in a home. Bristol Township. We've had none of that in So it's kind of been a free-for-all I believe for people coming into Bristol Township and yes, it is an exorbitant amount of halfway homes and recovery homes. And the problem that I have with that
44 PUBLIC HEARING, // within my community, unfortunately, the statistics are, as sad as it may be, there is a 0 percent increase in crime within a four-block radius of each one of these. If you look at that and you add or, which is today's number, that completes my whole - encompasses my whole community. So we have a major problem in Bristol Township, which is why I'm asking the committee to go a little bit further than just the inspections and look into how many can exist within one community. REPRESENTATIVE MURT: Thank you for your testimony. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. THE CHAIR: Representative Farry. Any other questions? REPRESENTATIVE FARRY: First off, thank you for coming out today. Week and how busy it is. I know it's Fire Prevention I think it's important in the event this legislation is successfully implemented that we carry through the comments of the fire marshal to the Secretary of Drug and Alcohol to ensure that those concerns are hopefully addressed through the regulations that will be promulgated by the department. So I think your testimony was dead on and
45 PUBLIC HEARING, // I thank you for being here. opportunity. KEVIN DIPPOLITO: Thank you for the THE CHAIR: Okay. Thank you. I'd like to recognize my Democratic Chairman of the Committee, Representative Angel Cruz, from Philadelphia. Angel, welcome. REPRESENTATIVE CRUZ: I apologize. I did circles twice around here so, but I'm here. THE CHAIR: Welcome to Bucks County. I get lost in Philadelphia sometimes, too, Angel. Our next testifier will be Joe Pizzo. Joe is a solicitor not only for Middletown Township but also for Bensalem. I'd like to welcome Joe. Whenever you are ready begin. JOSEPH W. PIZZO: Good morning. I provided your assistant with a copy of a statement. I don't know if the board would like -- if the committee would like to get a copy of that now. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania second class township -- local government in general, but I'll speak primarily to second class townships, as I've represented currently Bensalem and Middletown and I've previously represented Lower Southampton, Northampton and
46 PUBLIC HEARING, // Bristol Townships here in Bucks County. Second Class Township Code empowers townships to make and adopt ordinances, bylaws, rules and regulations that are not inconsistent with or restrained by the constitution and the laws of the Commonwealth, and those laws have to be necessary for the proper management, care and control of the township, the maintenance of peace, good government, health, welfare of the township and its citizens. Under the Second Class Township Code townships are further empowered to plan for the development of the township through zoning, subdivision and land development regulations under the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code. Townships are further able to enact and enforce ordinances to govern and regulate the construction, alteration, repair, occupation, maintenance, sanitation, lighting, ventilation, water supply, toilet facilities, drainage, use and inspection of all buildings and housing constructed, erected, altered, designed or used for any use or occupancy and the sanitation of inspection of land within the township. In order to enforce those ordinances the township may appoint one or more building and housing inspectors to enforce those regulations of the township
47 PUBLIC HEARING, // and for the inspection of construction, alteration, repair and sanitation facilities of buildings and housing in the township. Furthermore, townships are generally empowered to adopt ordinances to secure the safety of persons or property within the township and to define disturbing the peace within the limitations of the township. Townships are further given power by the legislature to ensure that fire and emergency medical services are provided within the township by the means and to the extent determined by the township including financial and administrative assistance for those services. The legislature's also given townships through the Second Class Township Code the power to provide for fire protection within the township and adopt any standard fire protection code. Article of the Second Class Township Code empowers the township to create, fund and operate a police force within the township. Under the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, second class townships are empowered to enact zoning ordinances that are designed in part to promote, protect and facilitate any or all of the
48 PUBLIC HEARING, // following. The public health safety morals and general welfare, coordinated and practical community development and proper density of population and emergency management and preparedness operations. Similarly, zoning ordinances are designed to prevent overcrowding of land, blight, danger and congestion and traveling transportation, loss of health, life or property from fire, flood, panic or other dangers. The Commonwealth has also adopted the Pennsylvania Construction Code Act by which townships are empowered to administer and enforce the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code. The stated purpose of that act is in part to provide standards for the protection of life, health, property and environment and for the safety and welfare of the consumer, the general public and the owners and occupants of buildings and structures. It's a lot of power. All of those citations that I just gave you are there to demonstrate that the Commonwealth has vested local municipalities and second class townships in particular with a wide range and a broad grant of police powers for the proper management of a township and for