Sober Houses under fire after heroin overdose

April 4, 2013 1:41:29 PM PDT
Sober Houses where people go to supposedly 'clean up' are under fire after a Long Island man died from a heroin overdose in one of these facilities.

It's been two years since Kelly O'Neill lost her son.

"I do not know how people move on, I just can't picture it," she said.

Billy Devito, among the alarming numbers of Long Islanders, addicted to pain pills. In and out of rehab, he wound up, at a so-called sober living home in Patchogue, where he was anything but sober, eventually overdosing, on heroin.

"It's horrible. It's lonely, it's absolutely horrible I can't explain it. Your soul is like, it's beyond your heart shattered and it's beyond an empty soul. It's beyond it," adds O'Neill.

The state paid for Billy to stay here, where he was supposed to pursue outpatient drug counseling.

But as his landlord Bernie Sonnenreich cashed $309 a month, he admits he did nothing to stop an addict, from falling through the cracks.

"If you wanna sit here like a bump on a log and watch tv and eat all day, you're not gonna do anything for yourself?I do not have an obligation (to these people)," he said.

The fact is he's right. Taxpayers may foot the bill for people like Billy to wind up in houses like this, but the state does nothing to regulate how they're treated when they're here. Nothing to make sure they don't fall right off the wagon.

"The state spends a lot of money on treatment for those folks. Their parents invest a lot of time and energy and they go into a 28 day program and they come back and they land in a house like this," said addiction expert Jeff Reynolds.

But maybe not for long. Standing in front of another sober home, shut down for code violations, lawmakers announced new legislation they say will improve care for recovering addicts, for the very first time requiring facilities to be certified and giving government agencies authority to police them.