For over 30 years, homes to help people in early recovery from alcoholism and substance use disorder have been an integral part of Maine’s landscape. These residences provided a safe space for people to reintegrate into normal daily life and become productive citizens – and data prove they work.

Building owner Wendi McPike, right, chats with her employees Katie Chandler, far left, and Annie Welner outside 87 Bartlett St. in Lewiston on July 26, 2022. The building is being transitioned from a known address for drug use to housing for individuals with substance use disorder transitioning out of prison and into the community. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal, File

Today, there are currently 69 recovery homes in 12 counties with just over 700 beds – each providing an opportunity to serve and treat Mainers with substance use disorder. Now, the state Legislature is considering a bill, L.D. 109, that could result in far fewer residences opening and the closure of up to 40% of existing homes – all amid the state’s worsening overdose crisis and a spiraling housing shortage. Nearly 300 beds would be lost. The goal of having at least one men’s and one women’s recovery residence in every Maine county would be shattered.

Sponsored by Rep. H. Scott Landry, D-Farmington, L.D. 109 would repeal an earlier law, passed in 2019 at the behest of the recovery community. This law (Sec. 1. 25 MRSA §2452, sub-§4), passed unanimously and signed into law by Gov. Mills, protected recovery residences from having to meet extraordinary burdens by recognizing them for what they are – single-family homes. Prior to the current law’s passage, local code enforcers and zoning authorities treated recovery homes as “boarding house” or group homes, which requires licensure and the installation of advanced fire protection systems.

People in recovery residences are, for all practical purposes, a family. Residents share personal stories, support one another in recovery, eat, shop, cook, perform community service and attend support meetings together. They are a protected group under the Americans with Disabilities Act and share protections under the Fair Housing Act. Several federal court rulings have reinforced these protections.

In the 20 years for which we have records, there has not been a single fatality or injury reported in a recovery home from a fire. Meanwhile, last year alone, Maine suffered 716 deaths because of accidental overdose, largely from fentanyl. If the Legislature rolls back the protections currently afforded to recovery residences and hundreds are forced to return to the streets and likely return to use, the death toll will continue to rise. All because of a misplaced belief that recovery residences need something they don’t.

The work group of the Legislature wants to accompany the staff of the Maine Association of Recovery Residences on an inspection visit, to see that we are “doing things right.” We welcome them. The association carefully follows the inspection standards of our parent, the National Alliance of Recovery Residences. Their current standards can be found on their website,, or referenced here.


Since the Maine Association of Recovery Residences began in 2016, hundreds of inspections have been carried out. Fire safety is top of mind during these annual inspections. It is regarded as important as providing the life-saving antidote naloxone and naloxone training to every resident. We test every smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector, check every fire extinguisher, test exit windows to ensure egress, check dryers and inspect records of required fire alarm drills.

The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, where L.D. 109 is being deliberated, means well. In the words of one member, they are attempting to “balance recovery and safety.” Unfortunately, the deliberations, now part of a study group, fail to recognize the nature of recovery residences.

As the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee continues its research and determines what other states are doing, we hope they realize that most recovery residences operate month to month with little cushion to meet large expenses. To keep entrance barriers low, rents are likewise low. Even with our current housing crisis, most entrance fees have remained affordable. Imposing expensive, unnecessary burdens on recovery residences will force many to close. And with them goes the opportunity for hundreds of people to recover and hundreds of lives to be saved.

There is a well-worn adage among building engineers, “Smoke detectors save lives, sprinklers save buildings.” Let’s put the hundreds of thousands of dollars these sprinkler systems will cost, and spend it on programs for expanding treatment opportunities at all levels.

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