New Law Aims To Prevent Fraud In Florida Recovery Industry

By Victoria Kim 07/06/17

The tighter regulations will hopefully minimize the fraudulent practices that plague the Florida addiction recovery industry.

Old house with palm trees in Miami Beach

Florida officials are hoping to tighten up regulation of its burgeoning recovery industry with a new law that went into effect on Saturday (July 1). 

The billion-dollar addiction recovery industry, especially prevalent in South Florida’s Palm Beach County, has come under fire for reports of fraud and abuse. 

The most high-profile bust this year came in May with the arrest of Kenneth Chatman. The treatment center operator was sentenced to 27-and-a-half years in federal prison for crimes including the sex trafficking of his patients, the Palm Beach Post reported at the time. 

Chatman, who made millions off of people seeking recovery, was accused of running an “addiction brothel” and called “worse than a pedophile” by the father of a former client. Among his laundry list of unethical practices was allowing drug use in his facilities as long as he could keep billing clients’ insurance. 

Since October, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg has overseen the arrests of more than two-dozen recovery industry profiteers through the county’s Sober Home Task Force.

Florida officials say many of South Florida’s private treatment centers “aggressively” market recovery services in other parts of the United States like the Northeast and Midwest, hoping to draw clients to the Sunshine State with promises of lasting results.

According to the Sun Sentinel, every three out of four clients in private treatment for substance use disorder in Florida are from out of state.

With the new law in place, local legislators are hoping to minimize fraudulent practices within the industry. The law establishes tighter rules and penalties on sober living homes that falsely advertise its services and companies that scam clients. 

Sober home telemarketers must also register with the state to prevent patient brokering, and background checks are now mandatory for any owners, directors and clinical supervisors at treatment centers.

According to the Sentinel, treatment centers can now only refer clients to certified sober living homes. By the summer of 2019, treatment centers that violate this rule will be subject to a fine of $1,000 for every referral made to a sober living home not certified by the state.

“We’ve dramatically stepped up the regulation of sober homes,” said bill sponsor state Rep. Bill Hager of Boca Raton. “We have done through this bill everything in our power at the state level.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr

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