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The Florida Model for Addiction Treatment | More Than Beaches & Disney


When most people think about Florida, they think about sunshine; about white sandy beaches and crystal blue water; about laughing with Mickey Mouse at Disney World. But for many others, they think about addiction; about concern for their loved one; about choosing a rehabilitation center. And when they think about options for a rehabilitation center, they picture a hospital-like setting with white walls, great amenities, smiling nurses and therapists, and exorbitant costs.

But for those really in the know, they don’t picture large rehabilitation centers – they picture sober homes. This treatment option has become ubiquitous to Florida; it’s known as the “Florida Model” when it is implemented in other states.

What is the Florida Model?

The Florida Model is a more affordable treatment option that can be a stepping stone in between a stay in a rehabilitation center, and a return to the individual’s life before treatment. Recovering individuals live together in a home that they pay rent for. Rent is typically cheaper than what they would find if they were searching on their own. They hold part-time jobs and attend therapy and other treatment sessions at a nearby facility that is affiliated with their sober home. 

Those in a rehabilitation center typically need 24/7 attention as they may be a harm to themselves or others, while those in sober homes are able to function more independently. Treatment is typically covered by the individual’s insurance.

Peer interactions are heavily emphasized in sober homes. Many “alumni” of the program will return and act as group leaders or provide support in other ways. Additionally, many sober homes were started by someone who used to struggle with addiction and got clean in a sober home affiliated with a treatment center. For those currently in treatment, seeing others who have completed their programs and are successfully helping others do the same is inspiring. Many alumni of these sober homes have gone on to start their own facilities to continue helping others struggling along a similar path.

Pros of the Florida Model

This model has been successful for many who are trying to navigate breaking a drug addiction. There are several pros to this model:

Peer Interaction

Peer support is inherent to this model, and is necessary for its success. It is incredibly helpful for those battling addiction to be receiving guidance from people who fully understand what they are going through. It helps them to feel understood and gives them hope that they can also overcome their addiction and be successful.

Lower Cost

Traditional rehabilitation centers are expensive. You’re paying for a large facility, constant care, prepared meals, a wide range of activities, and more. At some points during one’s treatment process, they may be most successful in a facility like this. But there are also points during their treatment process where they don’t want to and don’t need to pay for the conveniences of a larger facility.

Sober homes require that the inhabitants pay rent out of pocket, with treatment costs typically being covered by insurance. As a result, this option ends up being thousands of dollars cheaper. Those in this program are also encouraged to maintain part-time jobs which further helps their financial situation.

Learn Life Skills

One of the reasons rehabilitation centers are so expensive is because they provide complete care for their clients. In a sober home, the residents are responsible for cooking, cleaning, and other basic chores. They hold part-time jobs and are held accountable for responsibilities there. This teaches valuable life skills to the sober house residents. When individuals are already comfortable handling basic chores and tasks, it provides a foundation that helps build towards growth in other functioning areas such as maintaining positive relationships.

Cons of the Florida Model

As with any treatment option, there are cons as well as pros.

Limited Regulation

There are few laws in place to regulate the actions of sober homes. This makes it easy to start one – you just need a doctor willing to write prescriptions, a clinical director to oversee treatment, and money to cover start-up costs. It also makes it easy to take advantage of those that choose to live there. Some sober homes put little effort into creating a healthy environment for their residents that’s conducive to recovery. With limited regulation, it’s easy for them to bill insurances for treatment they’re not providing. They pay body brokers to entice vulnerable individuals to come to their facility by promising gift cards, gym memberships, and the ability to continuing using drugs.

Hard to tell the good from the bad

The sober homes following the Florida Model that aren’t concerned with helping their residents get better can be hard to tell from the homes that are. A lot of individuals seeking help for their drug addiction aren’t from Florida. They and their loved ones are not familiar with the area or the concept that not all treatment centers are looking out for the best interest of their clients. They may have simply heard that Florida has many options for recovery and began looking into them. Often, they don’t know what to look for or are desperately hoping that this option is the solution for their loved one.

The Future of the Florida Model

As the Florida Model continues to spread to other states, more regulation is likely to follow to ensure that the sober homes operating under this model are acting with the interests of their clients at the forefront of their mind.

Florida is more than just beautiful beaches and trips to Disney World – it is also the development ground for a new addiction treatment model with an uncertain and developing future worth watching.

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