Pennsylvania trip properties questions come up after Munhall overdose dying – CBS Pittsburgh
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Rest houses are places that people can go to to get clean and sober.
There are an estimated 500 of them nationwide, but research by KDKA found that not all are created equal.
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Amid a heroin addiction, Jim Pschirer vowed to quit and checked into a sanctuary in Munhall to join other recovering addicts to wean himself off the drug.
He died of an overdose within a month.
“He was a good boy. He tried to sober up for years, ”says Pschirer’s mother, Andrea Zack.
The von Pschirer family know the addiction is strong, but they also blame the rest house itself. It is one of many unlicensed and unchecked, but not illegal, salvage houses.
Unlike rehab centers, they are not subject to any state or local regulations.
The Pschirer family accuses the operator of the home in Munhall, Rosalind Sugarmann, of having no rules or supervision and of allowing addicts to drink and use drugs.
“I told her that I blamed her negligence for my brother’s death,” said Amanda Pschirer.
Sugarmann, however, rejects this claim.
“When people accuse me of being responsible for the death of this child, it’s ridiculous and it hurts me,” Sugarmann said.
Sugarmann himself is a recovering heroin addict who previously ran an addiction clinic in Uniontown. The FBI searched it in 2014, and in 2017, Sugarmann was sentenced to prison and suspended sentences after pleading guilty of health fraud and the illicit distribution of Suboxone.
When asked why she is now doing this job again, Sugarmann replied: “Because God wants it that way.”
In addition to the Munhall Recreation House, which she opened shortly after her release from prison, Sugarmann also runs a Recreation House for female addicts in Homestead.
She said the homes meet an urgent need created by the opioid crisis by providing quiet, safe environments for recovery. However, some say they are anything but.
KDKA investigations found records showing that police responded nine times and twelve times this year in Munhall’s apartment to calls for fighting, break-ins and overdoses at the women’s sanctuary in Homestead.
Vanessa McCarthy-Johnson, Homestead district manager, said Sugarmann never told them she ran a vacation home in the district. But since these houses are not licensed, there is no law that says they have to.
“We didn’t know about it until the neighbors came and complained, and at that point we couldn’t do anything,” said McCarthy-Johnson.
Sugarmann admits that addicts fresh out of rehab or prison can sometimes get out of line.
“We overdosed here, yes. We called the police. We had a fight here, yeah. We called, ”said Sugarmann.
Our KDKA research also found that some of these houses are more structured than others.
Some convalescent homes have strict curfews, regular drug tests, and require anyone who tests positive for drugs or alcohol to leave the home. However, Sugarmann said she allows anyone to stay in the vacation homes she runs, regardless of what happens.
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“You come home drunk and I’m supposed to say, ‘Get out?’ No, I don’t, ”said Sugarmann.
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The Pschirer family said they found Jim’s phone with texts confirming that he used heroin almost every day and often stayed away all night but was never asked to leave the house.
His sister believes that Sugarmann created an environment where anything is possible that enables people with addiction problems to continue their decline.
“Anyone who is at the beginning and tries to get clean who goes into such an environment has no chance,” said Amanda Pschirer.
However, Sugarmann defends allegations that she’s failing to create a safe, calm environment for recovering addicts by saying that their families should too.
“You couldn’t stop him from using it. How am I supposed to stop him from consuming? This disease kills people. People who help people don’t kill people, ”said Sugarmann.
In Carrick, meanwhile, the numbers clearly show the toll the opioid crisis has taken there.
Carrick has logged 302 fatal overdoses in five years. This is the largest area in the region and there are currently almost a dozen salvage houses there.
A recovering addict who once lived in one of them said he and other residents would routinely get high and drunk, and there were no consequences as long as the home operator got their rent.
“I remember it was just about the time my rent was due and I was getting high and it didn’t matter because all they wanted was my rent,” he said.
Pittsburgh City Councilor Anthony Coghill, who represents Carrick and some of the city’s other southern neighborhoods, said he kept getting complaints about the same houses.
Coghill said, “I get a lot of calls from neighbors not only in Carrick but also in Brookline about convalescent homes. There were several police calls in the same apartments. There is no supervision. “
While Coghill agrees that there is an urgent need for salvage houses, he would like them to be licensed, registered and inspected.
“I think the neighbors in these residential areas, Carrick in particular, need to know that someone who runs a vacation home meets certain standards,” said Coghill.
Leo Hutchinson runs half a dozen of the salvage houses in Carrick. He said that it is of the utmost importance for the places to have standards and rules.
Most importantly, people struggling with addiction test positive or even appear high to leave.
Hutchinson said, “The basic rule is, if you fail a drug test, you must not be on the premises.”
Hutchinson leads the Western Pennsylvania Alliance of Recovery Residences, whose members self-regulate and certify homes that meet standards and pass inspections.
He said the police rarely visit certified houses and that residents of those houses work during the day and are quiet at night.
“Every time you want to open one of these houses, you get a lot of trouble from neighbors. But once we open, if done right, we will be better neighbors than other neighbors on the street. We take care of our neighbors, ”said Hutchinson.
West PARR is now campaigning for the state to inspect and certify all salvage houses across the country.
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Hutchinson said, “It should have been done years ago. It has to be done. There are too many of these places where the operators make money, exploit people in early recovery, and they really don’t do anything to actually help those people. “