California State Laws and Regulations - Summary

Frequently Asked Questions


  1. What is the difference between medical and non-medical social model treatment programs?
    Both medical and non-medical social model programs offer services designed to promote detoxification, treatment and maintenance... Read More
  2. What is the difference between medical and non-medical detoxification programs?
    Medical detoxification programs typically occur within a hospital or structured inpatient medical setting. Read More
  3. Which addiction treatment facilities are required to be licensed?
    Any facility that proposes to offer 24-hour non-medical residential alcohol or drug abuse related recovery treatment services to adults must be licensed by... Read More
  4. What kind of treatment options are available for clients with addiction problems?
    A client with severe withdrawal signs and symptoms may need a medically-monitored inpatient detoxification program,... Read More
  5. What does it mean to be "licensed", "certified" or "accredited" in this industry?
    Licensing means that a particular type of facility or professional may only operate or provide a certain set of services with the advance and continuous authorization (license) of a designated government agency. Read More
  6. Non-Medical Rehabilitation Facilities (Inpatient and Outpatient) Services

  7. What kind of services can we offer within our program?
    Drug and alcohol rehabilitation services are those which are designed to promote recovery from substance use disorders. Read More
  8. What services are prohibited?
    Historically, non-medical facilities were not permitted to provide medical care or contract with physicians directly to provide medical services, although they could contract with a physician in an administrative role to provide non-clinical directorship services, such as oversight or input into program development. Read More
  9. Licensing

  10. What information must be provided in an initial application for licensure?
    In the initial application for licensure, the applicant will need to identify a site where it plans to offer drug and alcohol rehabilitation, detoxification and recovery services... Read More
  11. How long does a licensing application usually take and when does it need to be renewed?
    DHCS notifies licensing applicants if their application is complete or incomplete within 45 working (or business) days of receipt. Read More
  12. How should a residential facility prepare for an on-site audit for licensure determination?
    In order to effectively prepare for an on-site audit, the program should be current on all client's treatment programs, ensure that staff is up to date on all client files and progress, and make sure that all program and client files are current and include all pertinent information required by relevant rules and regulations. Read More
  13. Certification

  14. Does our facility have to be certified?
    Licensure is required for certain facilities while certification is optional. Read More
  15. What are the practical benefits of certifying a facility?
    Certification is a signal to potential clients, insurance companies, regulators, and the public that a facility aims to offer a responsible and high-quality service. Read More
  16. How long does the Department of Health Care Services take to review my application?
    Within 45 working days of receipt of the application, DHCS shall notify the applicant whether the application is complete or incomplete. Read More
  17. What should a facility do in preparation for the on-site compliance review?
    Following its preliminary review to determine certification, DHCS conducts an on-site review of each certified program at least every two years. Read More
  18. What happens if the inspector finds compliance deficiencies when conducting an on-site review?
    Some deficiencies may be immediately correctable but, if this is not possible,... Read More
  19. How often must certification be renewed?

    A program is eligible to renew its certification every two years, provided... Read More

  20. Under what circumstances can the Department of Health Care Services conduct an unannounced on-site inspection?
    Advance notice is not required for conducting an investigation of a complaint or an on-site review at a certified program. Read More
  21. Under what circumstances will a certification be terminated prior to its expiration date?
    A certification automatically terminates prior to the expiration date on the certificate when any of the following occurs: Read More
  22. Under what circumstances will the Department of Health Care Services deny, suspend, or revoke certification?
    DHCS may deny the issuance of an initial certification for any of the following reasons: Read More
  23. What if a program relocated to another facility?
    To prevent termination of the certification in the event of a move, at least 45 working days prior to a change of location, the following must be submitted to DHCS: Read More
  24. Zoning and Land Use

  25. What are the protections afforded to facilities used for drug rehabilitation?
    The regulation of land use and zoning is traditionally reserved to state and local governments, except to the extent that it conflicts with requirements imposed by the Fair Housing Act, the protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act, or other federal laws. Read More
  26. Are there any proximity restrictions regulating how close treatment centers may be to each other? Can I open a residential treatment center right next to one that is already there?
    At the present time, California law does not regulate or prevent multiple treatment facilities from operating in close proximity. Read More
  27. Admissions

  28. How can a facility decide if a client is suitable for the services it offers?
    A potential client should be assessed to determine how severe his/her addiction is, the nature of the drugs he/she uses, his/her medical history and present health,... Read More
  29. What kind of health clearances are needed prior to admitting a client?
    Both residential and non-residential programs should carefully complete a health questionnaire with any incoming client to determine the likelihood that the client needs medical attention. Read More
  30. How can a facility decide what level of detoxification would be appropriate for a potential client?
    A client with severe withdrawal signs and symptoms may need medically monitored inpatient detoxification program, which requires that services be delivered by doctors and nurses in an acute care hospital or chemical dependency recovery hospital. Read More
  31. What client information should be collected in during intake?
    At a minimum, intake should include:

    1. Personal Details: (a) client name, (b) date of birth, (c) sex and/or gender, (d) race, and (e) sexual orientation (optional) Read More
  32. What is required for the admissions agreement?
    An admissions agreement should include, at a minimum, a breakdown of expected fees and services, activities expected of clients, program rules and regulations,... Read More
  33. Care, Treatment and Services

  34. What information must be collected about a client in developing a treatment plan?
    A treatment plan should, at a minimum, contain the following: (1) statement of problems experienced... Read More
  35. How much contact should program staff have with the client once admitted?
    The frequency of services and staff contact requirements are based upon the type of facility and the type of program in which the client is participating. Read More
  36. How should residential facilities manage clients' medication?
    Programs must have a written policy regarding the use of prescribed medications. Staff may not prescribe or control medications. Read More
  37. What are the grounds to dismiss a client from our program?
    Generally, there are four types of discharge. First, successful completion of the program means that the client has met the goals of their recovery plan. Read More
  38. If a facility discharges a client who has relapsed and that client proceeds to overdose in the following days, is the facility at risk and, if so, how can it protect itself?
    The discharge of a client must be handled carefully given the risks if a client suffers negative health consequences in the aftermath of discharge. Read More
  39. Privacy

  40. How must clients' privacy be protected?
    Client confidentiality is an important issue covered by both federal and state laws. These laws set forth specific requirements regarding how and when patient information may be shared and the protections that must be in place ... Read More
  41. Governance and Staffing

  42. May addiction treatment centers have medical directors?
    It is permissible for a center to employ or contract a medical or clinical director who exercises non-clinical directorship services, such as program development, policies and procedures, and personnel oversight. Read More
  43. Are there limitations on hiring or contracting with physicians to provide medical care to treatment facility clients?
    In general, clients are required to seek medical services that they need independent of the licensed facility. Read More
  44. What licensing or certification requirements are there for addiction treatment staff at a residential facility?
    For a licensed facility, at least 30% of all staff providing counseling services need to be licensed or certified. Read More
  45. Payment

  46. How should facilities respond to clients in need of treatment who are unable to pay the required deductibles and co insurance?
    Clients seeking drug and alcohol rehabilitative services often face financial difficulties, whether as a result of the consequences of their addiction or as a result of the expense of multiple, prior failed treatment programs. Read More
  47. What are the key issues insurers raise to demand recoupment of fees from substance abuse treatment programs?
    Insurers may demand recoupment of fees based on any defect in the billing claim or supporting documentation and/or based on any noncompliance with federal or state laws. Read More
  48. Marketing

  49. What marketing practices are prohibited?
    The most widespread prohibited marketing practices in addiction treatment appear to revolve around inappropriate inducements and inaccurate marketing claims. Read More
  50. What are the limits of gift giving to potential referral sources?
    State and federal regulators prohibit the exchange of items of value to induce referrals so the exchange of any item of value,... Read More
  51. What kind of benefits can be offered to new or existing clients?
    Providers must avoid giving a patient, prospective patient, or referral source anything of value or benefit. Read More
  52. Sober Living Environments

  53. What is a sober home?
    A sober living home is an alcohol and drug -free environment inhabited by individuals who are attempting to maintain their recovery from substance abuse disorders. Read More
  54. Licensing

  55. Does a sober living home need a license?
    Shared or cooperative living arrangements that do not offer rehabilitative and recovery services do not require a license from DHCS. Read More
  56. Are there any consequences to being “unlicensed?”
    The absence of a license means that addiction recovery treatment services may not be provided at a sober living facility. Read More
  57. What kinds of services can be offered by a sober living home?
    Alcohol and drug-free houses (sober-living environments) typically provide a living environment to enable residents to organize activities and participate in self-help initiatives which promote their goal to live without drugs or alcohol. Read More
  58. Accreditation

  59. How can we demonstrate to our clients that we are offering a high-quality living environment?
    A sober living home can elect to demonstrate voluntarily that it meets minimum quality standards. Read More
  60. Does a sober living home have to obtain accreditation in order to operate?
    No, but becoming accredited or formally registered may encourage residents to consider... Read More
  61. How does a sober living home apply for accreditation or registration?
    Information on accreditation is available directly from The Joint Commission... Read More
  62. What should a sober living home do in preparation for an on-site accreditation or registration review?
    The facility should familiarize itself with the standards set forth by the accrediting or registering agency. Read More
  63. How often must I renew accreditation or registration?
    Renewal times depend on the agency and accreditation / registration received. Read More
  64. Zoning and Land Use

  65. What are the legal protections for sober living homes?
    A sober living home with six or fewer people is generally exempt from zoning and land use regulations based on federal and state law, and need not seek municipal approval to operate. Read More
  66. Can local governments put special restrictions on sober living homes?
    This area of law is complex and evolving. It is well settled that state and federal law prohibit local governments from discriminating against or treating the residents of sober living homes differently from that of traditional families. Read More
  67. What other aspects should be considered before choosing a location for a sober living home?
    In siting a sober living home, attention should be paid to potential hostility from neighbors. Read More
  68. Resident's Rights and Responsibilities

  69. What are the obligations to residents?
    To enforce that the premises remain safe and free of intoxicant use; to maintain the premises in a habitable manner;... Read More
  70. What kind of agreement should a resident be asked to sign?
    The agreement should include: (1) a pledge from the client to live by the house rules... Read More
  71. Can a sober living home insist on drug tests and searches?
    Sober living homes do not have the right to impose testing or searches without consent. Read More
  72. Can a sober living home bill insurance for required and/or random drug testing?
    Sober living residences sometimes rely on the drug screening that takes place when the resident attends outpatient services,... Read More
  73. Can residents' obligations be made contractually enforceable?
    If the rules are contained in the sober living housing agreement as conditions of residence,... Read More
  74. Governance and Staffing

  75. What kind of ownership and staffing structures are common with sober living homes?
    A housing facility may be structured as a nonprofit corporation, a for-profit corporation, limited liability company, partnership, association, or a sole owner arrangement. Read More
  76. Are there any organizations which could help?
    California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals... Read More


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