Sober Home Task Force Cracks Down on South Florida Rehab Industry

By Britni de la Cretaz 12/12/16

Delray Beach alone is home to hundreds of rehabs and halfway houses.

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Sober Home Task Force Cracks Down on South Florida Rehab Industry

Palm Beach County, Florida is known for having many different drug treatment options, but city officials say not all of them are safe. The Palm Beach County Sober Homes Task Force is hoping to implement operating standards for sober houses, while also shutting down those that may not be safe, sanitary, or ethical.

This past Tuesday, Chapters Recovery (formerly known as “Good Futures Recovery”) in Delray Beach was raided by police as part of a Task Force investigation, according to the Palm Beach Post. Though no arrests were made, detectives did remove several boxes of evidence from the property.

This is not the first treatment center to be targeted by the Task Force. In October, authorities arrested the CEO of Whole Life Recovery in Boynton Beach, along with an operations consultant, as reported in the Sun Sentinel. They were charged with accepting kickbacks and paying for patient referrals, which is prohibited under Florida’s patient-brokering law. The Post reports that “six sober home operators have been arrested and charged with multiple counts of patient brokering for accepting those kickbacks.” These arrests were the result of a two-year corruption investigation into the treatment industry.

The Sober Homes Task Force was launched in July, along with a tips hotline where people can report fraud or abuse at treatment centers. According to minutes from the first Task Force meeting, the purpose of the Task Force is to “address substance abuse, treatment and recovery and, ultimately, foster the protection of vulnerable consumers and elevating the standards and practices of the recovery industry.” The Task Force is comprised of police officers, staff from the State Attorney’s Office, professionals who work in the recovery industry, and others concerned with the issue.

Some of the issues the Task Force is concerned with include patient brokering, fraudulent marketing, and standardized Licensure Process for treatment facilities. Currently, “there are no regulations for standards of interventions or providers of interventions at each level of care.” This means that treatment centers can operate essentially as “body farms,” seeking patients to fill the beds while not providing adequate treatment or conditions for them. Not only that, treatment options are poorly defined and there is no regulation in terms of how they market themselves, especially “post-treatment” facilities like halfway houses and sober homes. In addition, “treatment centers have been making large profits… by charging insurers for numerous and often-unnecessary drug screening tests, quickly running up bills in the thousands of dollars,” according to a statement.

The Task Force meets again on Dec. 19.

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Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.

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