COBWRA backs bill to clean up sober home practices
By: Jan Engoren – Sun-Sentinel
With support by the Coalition of Boynton West Residential Associations’ Government Affairs Committee, House Bill 807, the Practices of Substance Abuse Service Providers Act, is being sent to Gov. Rick Scott for signature.
If signed, the bill will go into effect July 1, with the intention of mitigating the opioid crisis in the state, part of a larger nationwide phenomenon.
Working in conjunction with members of COBWRA’s Legislative Delegation and the State Attorney’s office, the bill authorizes the Office of Statewide Prosecution to investigate and prosecute patient brokering offenses in residence treatment homes, which are known as sober homes.
“For a long time, South Florida has been known as the sober home capital of the U.S.,” said COBWRA president Myrna Rosoff. “There are a lot of shady practices involved that perpetuate the addiction crisis.
“We are absolutely thrilled that our government has finally recognized the extreme stress this is putting on local budgets and all of us as citizens to try and protect the weakest of us.”
The bill would also increase penalties for operating without license; require the Florida Department of Children and Families to conduct background screening for owners, directors, CFOs and clinical supervisors of substance abuse service providers; revise limitations on referrals to recovery residences; authorize the courts to approve application for disclosure of substance abuse treatment records; prohibit certain marketing practices and provide fines and penalties (third-degree felony if someone commits a crime by brokering a patient, punishable by up to five years) for unscrupulous operators.
Phil Barlage, head of COBWRA’s Government Affairs Committee, gives credit to State Attorney Dave Aronberg, Assistant State Attorney Al Johnson, State Sen. Jeff Clemens and Rep. Bill Hager (R-Boca Raton), who introduced the bill to the House.
“The intent of the bill is to call for the regulation of the sober home industry,” said Barlage, “and to get patient treatment centers and residences working together in a licensed atmosphere so they can’t broker patients and use deceptive marketing techniques to keep these patients in a cycle of addiction.”
The bill is a result of the Sober Task Force created by Aronberg last year to find ways to clean up the industry.
The bill would crack down on exploitative sober home operators who engage in deceptive and fraudulent marketing practices to entice vulnerable recovering addicts back into the cycle of addiction for profit, and impose criminal penalties punishable by up to five years in prison for operators who broker patients and who are not certified.
“The new legislation is groundbreaking in its scope,” Aronberg said. “It will save lives by enhancing oversight of the recovery industry in Florida, and give prosecutors and law enforcement powerful tools to eliminate the bad actors who take advantage of vulnerable patients.”