Senator Bates (right) officially introduced SB 902 to Bernadette McNulty, the Chief Assistant Secretary of the Senate, inside the Senate Chamber in Sacramento on January 16, 2018. To request a high resolution of this photo, contact Jacqui Nguyen at Jacqui.Nguyen@sen.ca.gov.
SACRAMENTO – Hoping to build on the momentum created by a recent media investigation into Southern California’s drug rehab industry, Senate Republican Leader Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) announced today that she has introduced Senate Bill 902 to address some of the concerns that were raised. The intent of the bill is to improve patient well-being and increase public safety of neighborhoods containing rehab operators and sober living homes.
“For more than 20 years, several bipartisan efforts to address the challenges surrounding the state’s drug rehab history have gone nowhere due to opposition from vested interests,” said Senator Bates. “While I’m under no illusion that pursuing greater oversight will be any easier this year, doing nothing is not acceptable for constituents who have contacted me on this issue. The Southern California News Group’s thorough 2017 investigation into the industry makes it clear that reforms are needed. The goal of my legislation is to stop the industry’s bad actors, not those with strong records of helping people suffering from addiction.”
Senator Bates sees SB 902 as a work in progress and will finalize language for her bill after holding additional discussions with stakeholders. In 2016, the Senate Health Committee rejected her SB 1283 that would have allowed a city or county to craft health and safety standards specifically for sober living homes.
The Southern California News Group found that as opioid addiction has soared, unscrupulous rehab operators have rushed in to take advantage of mandatory mental health treatment coverage required by the Affordable Care Act. It also found that the state’s hands-off approach to regulating the industry makes it easy for almost anyone to open a treatment center and charge insurance companies hundreds of thousands of dollars per client.
Senator Bates hopes that recent developments at the federal level will help with her efforts to encourage change at the state level.
Senator Bates remarked, “Creating substantive and positive change in the drug rehab industry will take time. But as a former social worker who once worked in some of our state’s most economically deprived neighborhoods, I take inspiration from Winston Churchill’s mantra of ‘Never, never, never give up.’ And as long as I’m around, I won’t. Stay tuned.”
In November 2017, a bipartisan group of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee sent letters to six state governments (including California), requesting information and staff briefings on allegations of patient brokering.
This type of brokering is where men and women with addiction issues have been recruited to out-of-state facilities through offers for free travel, rent, cigarettes, and even manicures. Upon arrival to the treatment facilities and sober living homes, the patients frequently find they have been deceived, and are merely pawns in a profit scheme, resulting in chronic relapses, overdoses, and even death. Bipartisan congressional committee leaders launched their investigation in July 2017, writing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on the issue.