In growing numbers, sober houses in Massachusetts, intended to play a key role in a person's recovery, need to find center ground between over-regulation and under-regulation. While this reality exists, unscrupulous vendors of goodwill are profiting off the backs of so many people in recovery.

The state has been aware of this for years and has tried to address it by certifying alcohol and drug-free housing. Any home not certified wouldn't be able to accept clients from state agencies. But certification is optional, so most of the state's sober houses operate largely unregulated.

The best way to get honest information about a sober house is to ask the people who live there about the living conditions, health and safety support, conformity with rules and discipline – and whether the environment is conducive to sober living.

God must love greedy people because He certainly made a lot of them who know how to make tons of money in the sober house business. The horror stories I've been told are heartbreaking because they exploit the recovering addict. Landlords exchanging rent for sex, packing people like sardines into one unit and charging them exorbitant rent while also getting additional rent monies from other sources. One owner was making about $14,000 a week or $725,000 a year in rental fees from about 100 residents.

On the flip side of this problem, there is a huge shortage of beds in the state and anything that reduces them just makes the situation worse. So, yes there's a real dilemma and not just here. In urban centers and across the country, the same problem exists.

What's one possible solution? As simplistic as it sounds, finding good, decent people to run these places, people who value recovery and helping others over profits.

Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at phil@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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