POINT OF VIEW Grand jury’s sober home report lacks balance


The Palm Beach Post’s Dec. 13 story, “Sober home report cites patient abuse,” accepted without question the grand jury’s “Report on the Proliferation of Fraud and Abuse in Florida’s Addiction Treatment Industry.”

I believe grand juries can and do perform important functions, but they need to be “fair and balanced”.

The report correctly concludes the obvious: there are some sub-standard sober homes, and some greedy substance use disorder treatment providers. Notably absent in the report were comparators like slumlords in poor neighborhoods and greedy medical providers in other health professions.

The report also correctly notes the “growing national health crisis involving opioid addiction,” but then uses words like “drastic,” “exploitation,” “medical tourism” and “lucrative opportunity for bad actors” to describe expanded capacity for substance use disorder treatment. Nowhere, however, does the grand jury talk about the need for more treatment, or how in Palm Beach County less than 15 percent of the population with substance use disorders received treatment in the previous year.

Palm Beach County, and Florida as a whole need to expand substance use disorder treatment opportunities, not demonize the health providers. While some regulation is certainly necessary, the grand jury essentially recommends over-regulation, which will drive up the cost of treatment and reduce its availability to those who need it most.

Additionally, the grand jury claims to have heard testimony from “private and municipal attorneys who extensively litigated treatment and recovery housing issues over the past decade.” I don’t know a single private lawyer in Palm Beach County who has extensively litigated treatment and recovery housing issues on behalf of people in recovery over the past decade who was called to the grand jury.

Had I been called, for example, I would have talked about the history of zoning discrimination against people with disabilities which makes it hard and expensive for them to get fair housing and treatment. I would have talked about “Not in My Backyard,” where people and politicians say we need sober homes and treatment centers but not in their city. If not there, where?

Also, I would have talked about the failure of neighbors, politicians, people in recovery and providers to sit down face-to-face and discuss their fears and needs. It does not appear that any of this was presented to, or considered by the grand jury.

JAMES K. GREEN, WEST PALM BEACH

Editor’s note: James K. Green is a West Palm Beach attorney who litigated in federal court for people in recovery who were seeking fair housing and treatment providers seeking zoning approval to open treatment facilities.



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