California’s Broken Rehab System is Devastating Communities

Lax regulations, a crippling opioid epidemic, and the Affordable Care Act are contributing to the growth of a corrupt drug rehabilitation industry that exploits our most vulnerable and exacerbates the drug and homelessness crises on California's streets.

That’s the finding of a blunt exposé published in the Orange County Register Sunday.

Though many legitimate [rehab] centers remain, critics and long-time insiders say a darker version of the industry is emerging, built around an illicit world of patient recruiters, fraud-driven clinics and drug-testing mills.

Southern California, where the implementation of Obamacare makes it easy for recent arrivals to sign on for insurance is on the front line of the conflict.

Addicts from all over the country are courted by rehabs in California with the promise of a new, drug-free life. What too often awaits them are insurance schemes and farcical treatment programs led by ill equipped personnel -- some of them ex-cons. Often, these transplant addicts end up on California’s streets indefinitely or in the state’s ERs.

“They’re coming here to be treated, and for whatever reason it’s not working out, and they’re kicked to the curb,” said Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley. “You see them at Starbucks with their suitcases. They have no place to go and they end up on the streets, in a worse situation than they began in.”

To compound matters, information about rehab centers is unavailable online. To obtain records or complaints, one must go to Sacramento and obtain paper documents. Even then, information is often lacking due to privacy laws. The lack of transparency fuels fraud and corruption. 

“The California model for addiction treatment is broken,” says Stampp Corbin of the Addiction Treatment Advocacy Coalition. Experts say the state’s regulations make it tough for legitimate businesses to operate, while rewarding duplicitous enterprises. In California, nearly anyone can open a rehab center.

Sober living homes are even worse. There is almost no oversight. And, because of the Americans With Disabilities Act, cities and counties are prohibited from banning these facilities from their communities, despite the crime and squalor so many of them bring.

A number of bills aimed at tackling fraudulent rehab centers and sober living homes are now pending in the California Legislature.

Read more about California’s broken rehabilitation system and its effect on local communities here