You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myPalmBeachPost.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myPalmBeachPost.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myPalmBeachPost.com.

Will Florida Legislature support sober home cleanup bills?


Bills filed by Palm Beach County lawmakers that would target unethical marketing practices in the drug-treatment industry, moving forward with statewide support and the governor’s backing, have advanced to the floor in the state House and Senate.

Republican Rep. Bill Hager of Boca Raton and Democratic Sen. Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth sponsored parallel bills, endorsed April 11 by Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi at a news conference on the opioid epidemic sweeping the state and nation. It remains to be seen whether the full House and Senate will embrace the bills as well.

Hager’s bill quickly cleared three House panels, bringing it to the House floor as the session enters its final weeks. Clemens’ cleared the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday, with one effort to delay it blocked by Clemens, who said delays would just lead to more deaths.

Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, a co-sponsor of Hager’s bill, is confident it will pass.

“It’s being very positively received here in the House,” she said.

The bills — House Bill 807 and Senate Bill 788 — emerged from December recommendations of Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg’s Sober Home Task Force, which was charged by the Legislature with crafting legislation after similar bills failed in 2016.

The task force revealed shady business practices including unethical marketing, kickbacks and patient brokering, much of which followed a series of stories over two years in The Palm Beach Post.

“It seems as if sobriety and relapse just work in in a circle,” Hager said as the bill advanced.

Driven by huge profits from insurance payments for extensive drug testing, some sober homes took payments to refer lucrative addicts to treatment centers, which billed insurance for unnecessary testing, The Post’s reporting showed.

Bondi said some industry players plied addicts with drugs to keep them in the system.

“This is the worst kind of drug dealer there is,” she said. “They’re going around the country marketing themselves as ‘bring your child down here, bring your loved one down here and we’re going to cure you.’”

The bills would force sober home telemarketers to register with the state, clarify laws that make kickbacks illegal and require background screenings for owners, directors and clinical supervisors of treatment centers.

They would allow the Office of Statewide Prosecutor to pursue patient brokering cases, which would take some pressure off local law enforcement.

It also adds patient brokering to a list of crimes punishable under the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, or RICO. Under RICO, patterned after the federal law originally aimed at mobsters, law enforcement can crack down on organized groups.

The chief difference between the two bills is in the state’s attempt to create licensure requirements for treatment facilities.

Under Hager’s bill, the Department of Children and Families would oversee licensed treatment centers, with the power to visit the centers unannounced. It also would bar licensed facilities from referring patients to sober homes that aren’t voluntarily certified through the state.

The sober homes would not be required to certify.

Clemens’ bill mandates that all treatment facility staff having contact with patients be licensed or certified. It also allocates $194,000 to the attorney general’s office for two more prosecutors to handle enforcement.

The bills would have to be reconciled if they emerge from their respective chambers.

Bondi said she is confident the legislation, along with a separate bill that would tighten penalties against trafficking in the lethal painkiller fentanyl, will pressure illicit sober homes to clean up or close down.

“We’re basically going to regulate them out of business,” she said at the news conference.

Staff writer Christine Stapleton contributed to this story.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

UPDATE: Police locate family of boy found wandering in Boynton
UPDATE: Police locate family of boy found wandering in Boynton

Boynton Beach police say they have found the family of a 5-year-old boy who was discovered standing alone in the middle of North Seacrest Boulevard Sunday morning. The boy, who said his name was Ismael, was wearing a blue T-shirt with guitars and plaid shorts when he was spotted standing in the 2600 block of North Seacrest Boulevard at 6:53 a...
Game night Monday on waterfront green
Game night Monday on waterfront green

Aesop’s Tables. (Contributed) Blogger, Tweeter and international man of mystery Aaron Wormus will host a free community game night at 5 p.m. Monday, June 26, at West Palm Beach’s waterfront green. Wormus, the “guy” behind the aGuyonClematis Twitter account and blog, will lead the event at the city’s outdoor...
BREAKING: Belle Glade shooting ruled a suicide
BREAKING: Belle Glade shooting ruled a suicide

A shooting in Belle Glade that left one person dead has been ruled a suicide. Palm Beach County Fire Rescue officials reported the shooting near the intersection of Duda Road and Gator Boulevard, in a residential area near the Glades Sugar House processing plant, just after 7 p.m. According to paramedics, one person was dead at the scene from a gunshot...
JUST IN: Florida man steals van, tries to board plane after jumping on wing
JUST IN: Florida man steals van, tries to board plane after jumping on wing

A Florida man stole a van, jumped on a plane’s wing and tried to board the aircraft that was preparing to taxi down a runway, according to police.  On Tuesday, Gregory A. Hoch, 37, allegedly stole a surveyor’s van after the man got out of it to get his tools, the Lakeland Police Department wrote on Facebook. <div></div>...
NEW: Coast Guard medevacs man, 52, from cruise ship
NEW: Coast Guard medevacs man, 52, from cruise ship

A 52-year-old man was medevacked from the Carnival Pride cruise ship 50 miles east of St. Augustine early Saturday after experiencing symptoms of shock, the Coast Guard said. The Coast Guard said the Jacksonville Command Center received notification about the man at 11:15 p.m. Friday and an MH-60 helicopter crew arrived on the scene at 1:40 a.m. Saturday...
More Stories