To preserve the safety of individuals who enter addiction treatment programs, rules and regulations have been developed that oversee and set standards for these programs. While a number of these rules and regulations are established on a national level, each state also has its own set of standards for addiction treatment programs within its jurisdiction.

The state of California has a number of complicated and careful laws and standards around treatment centers, including:

  • Residential treatment centers
  • Detox facilities
  • Partial hospitalization programs
  • Outpatient treatment centers
  • Sober living facilities
california state capitol and rehab regulations

Understanding these laws and regulations can be a great help in learning how to find a responsible, certified, and experienced addiction treatment program.

California Department of Health Care Services


In California, oversight of substance use disorder treatment services is managed by the Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Compliance Division, which is part of the California Department of Health Care Services.

This organization also responds to complaints against the above programs and individual treatment professionals, and ensures compliance with criminal justice treatment programs and counselor certification.

Alternatively, the state’s Substance Use Disorder-Program, Policy, and Fiscal Division develops and implements policy around substance use disorder prevention strategies, implements treatment program contracts, and determines grants of state or federal funds for treatment services.

Some of the rules and regulations that govern different treatment types in the state are discussed below.

Residential Treatment Centers


The League of California Cities provides documentation about the various rules and regulations surrounding residential treatment programs as well as group homes. Generally, California only protects facilities that serve six or fewer residents, and such facilities are considered to be equivalent to single-family homes. Larger residential programs are allowed but restricted regarding their locations, or they require specific permitting in certain areas; in some cases, they are banned outright.

According to the SUD Compliance Division, residential treatment facilities that provide nonmedical services are not required to be licensed.

However, if a facility provides any of the following services, it must be licensed:

  • Detoxification
  • Group or individual therapy sessions
  • Addiction education sessions
  • Alcoholism or drug abuse recovery or treatment planning

California considers individuals who are in treatment for drug or alcohol abuse to be disabled under the Fair Housing Act. For this reason, treatment centers cannot be completely restricted from an area. However, one treatment center cannot be within 300 feet of another treatment center.

Partial Hospitalization Programs and Outpatient Treatment Centers


In general, outpatient treatment centers and partial hospitalization programs are held to the same standards and requirements as residential rehab centers. They require licensure if they provide certain services, and they do not if they offer nonmedical treatment. All treatment centers are still subject to county or city regulations and requirements for establishing a business.

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Sober Living Facilities


According to the League of California Cities summary, facilities designed to support individuals who have completed substance abuse treatment do not need to be licensed. This means that sober living facilities that provide treatment aftercare do not require an application for state licensing.

This does not mean that sober living facilities can be set up anywhere. In many counties or cities in California, these facilities still require business permitting or zoning allowances to set up operations. In addition, as reported by The Fix, there have been multiple attempts to regulate the number of facilities that can be set up in a certain area by restricting how close treatment facilities can be to one another. This can limit the number of sober living facilities that may be found in a certain area as well as the number of beds available to people in recovery.

Licensing and Certification for Treatment Professionals in California


There are three certifying organizations that California law recognizes:

  • Addiction Counselor Certification Board of California
  • California Association of DUI Treatment Programs
  • California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals

Each of these organizations has its own certification requirements.

The state also has its own specific laws regarding counselor experience and continuing education. For example, an addiction counselor in California must complete 40 hours of continuing education every two years. This requirement is valuable for individuals in treatment because they can be assured that the professionals treating them are up to date on the most current research and understanding of addiction and substance abuse treatment.

Ensuring Safe and Quality Care


The SUD Compliance Division maintains a list of facilities that have had their licenses revoked, enabling those who are seeking rehab to know which facilities may be in violation of the California laws regulating the addiction treatment industry. It also provides a listing of counselors who have had their certifications revoked for similar reasons. Complaint forms are available, providing legal recourse for complaints against facilities that are suspected of operating unlawfully.

Final Notes


The California Department of Health Care Services has a FAQ page for individuals who may be seeking substance abuse treatment as well as for those who run SUD facilities of various kinds. This page provides a wide range of answers to questions regarding finding a treatment center, certification and complaint processes, and seeking funding for setting up treatment centers or for supporting treatment services.

When looking into finding a treatment facility, it is always prudent to research the facility’s licensure and certification status, make sure the professional staff have completed the required certifications and are up to date in their education, and look into any complaints that the facility may have received. Established, certified, state-licensed, and experienced treatment facilities provide a higher likelihood that the individual will get the treatment required and will be able to emerge from the program in recovery, with hope for a return to a productive daily life.

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