How Florida is setting a precedent for ethics.
No longer bemoaned as being too lax when it comes to policing the addiction treatment business, Florida is now setting a precedent for other states. Gov. Rick Scott signed a comprehensive bill that will reduce unethical practices and help officials catch profiteers and criminals.
As you may remember, a grand jury and a special task force helped to shape the policy, which took effect July 1. It strengthens some existing rules, especially in regard to patient brokering, and adds new measures to combat marketing misdeeds.
Penalties for patient brokering scale up to a first-degree felony plus a $500,000 fine when the violation includes 20 or more patients. New mandates require that treatment centers only refer clients to sober homes that are certified by the state, and after June 30, 2019, centers can be fined $1,000 for every referral made to an uncertified sober home. Now that's a policy with some teeth.
Perhaps one of the most impactful changes in daily operations will be the broader regulatory powers given to the state's Department of Children and Families (DCF). For example, DCF will have more leeway to inspect treatment facilities (with or without advanced notice) and take action against providers. It will also be required to conduct background checks on various people involved in operating the facilities as well.
This is good policy that will begin to tidy up the market over time. State Attorney Dave Aronberg commented in May that the state's sober homes task force had already made 26 arrests. No doubt there are more to come, but they won't necessarily come easily.
While the new Florida policy prohibits deceptive marketing--and enacts criminal penalties--unsavory marketers are notoriously difficult to track down. It's still not that hard for bad guys to evade discovery, thanks to the relative anonymity of the internet and toll-free numbers. What's more, sources have told me about "burner" websites that are here today and gone tomorrow, just like the throw-away mobile phones known to be used by drug dealers.
It will be an ongoing challenge to catch the shady marketers but well worth the effort.
Julie Miller, Editor-in-Chief