“It’s just, like, a heroin epidemic on Long Island where I’m from. So I had to get away from that and now I’m in Prescott, Arizona,” Phillip says. NPR agreed not to use his last name because he is struggling with addiction and fears it might hurt his chances of future employment.
Phillip and a handful of other young people are filtering through the line at a soup kitchen at the Prescott United Methodist Church just before noon. They are grabbing a bite to eat before their next meeting of recovering addicts nearby.
“Everybody here is basically, I feel like, in recovery and they’re more serious about it,” says Phillip.
Not like back home in New York, he says, where people shoot up in the parking lot before meetings.
You hear similar stories from others who come to this idyllic mountain community to shake their addiction. Outdoor recreation, a mild climate, scenic vistas and a welcoming attitude toward those in recovery is touted in a promotional video by a group called Drug Rehab Arizona.
And with its motto “Welcome to Everybody’s Hometown,” Prescott has become a hub for the multi-billion-dollar recovery industry. It’s even listed by the recovery website TheFix as one of the top 10 destinations in the country to get sober.
This has caused a boom in sober living houses — homes where six to eight recovering addicts live under the supervision of a house manager, who is usually also a recovering addict. During the day, they typically go to outpatient treatment centers, attend meetings and once further into recovery, look for work. At last count, Prescott, population 40,000, had more than 150 of these sober living homes, with new ones opening up frequently. And some Prescott residents are upset.
Group homes have inundated the community, says Connie Cantelme, who lives in one of …