Local

Guide: California bills that would crack down on shady drug rehab practices

Southern California is a hub for substance abuse treatment facilities and sober living homes -- including heroin addiction. Two related bills heard in a California Senate committee this week aim to crack down on unscrupulous operators.
Southern California is a hub for substance abuse treatment facilities and sober living homes -- including heroin addiction. Two related bills heard in a California Senate committee this week aim to crack down on unscrupulous operators.
Daniel Anderson/California Watch

Listen to story

01:01
Download this story 0MB

Southern California is a hub for substance abuse treatment facilities. It’s a lucrative industry – and patient advocates say this has led to unsavory practices. 

Two bills that got a hearing this week in the state senate health committee take aim at practices that potentially exploit addicts. What they'd do:

"Patient brokering"

Here's how "patient brokering" works:

Treatment facilities hire people to recruit patients, often targeting people with insurance. The "broker" gets paid for the referral. 

Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), who is sponsoring a bill outlawing the practice, says it does more harm than good. 

“What appears as a strong incentive to help addicts hoping to recover has instead invited unscrupulous individuals and programs to take advantage of a vulnerable population," Bradford said. 

SB 1268 would make patient brokering a misdemeanor, punishable by a $2,500 fine. 

 

 

Rehab facility oversight

A second bill, sponsored by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), seeks tighter oversight for treatment facilities. It would also require state health officials to establish a voluntary registration system by July 2020 for unlicensed recovery homes.

Such facilities, often called "sober living homes," are not supposed to provide treatment.  Critics say there is little accountability.

"Some of them actually start providing treatment services in these homes without licensure, and advertising that this is what they have, is a treatment facility, when in fact they do not have a treatment facility," said Al Senella, president of the California Association of Alcohol and Drug Program Executives, and CEO of a treatment program in Tarzana. 

SB 992 also seeks to close loopholes that allow some facilities to skirt licensing laws if they claim to provide services for less than 24 hours a day.