South Florida is often called “the recovery capital of the world.” This is mostly due to the sheer number of sober homes, rehabs, detoxes, and AA clubhouses. The trend started several years ago after the state started cracking down on “pill mills.” Pill mills were pharmacies or doctors that handed out prescription opioid painkillers. When the state made moves to halt this trend, a new business opened it’s doors: drug treatment centers.
In South Florida, drug and alcohol treatment centers have controversially become the center of attention. Similar to pill mills, these facilities began practicing black-hat marketing and business tactics. Many of these tactics were illegal, but there was little enforcement. Now, the Palm Beach County and Delray Police are enforcing these laws. Not only are some people taking hefty convictions, Palm Beach County is losing its title as a safe place to get sober.
Patient brokering is essentially exactly how it sounds. Treatment centers auction-off patients to sober homes and halfway houses in return for a kickback. Additionally, if sober homes have a resident who relapses, they refer them to the treatment center that they have a deal with. Many halfway houses have some sort of “deal” with somebody, whether formal or not.
These rings function mostly because of the insurance offered. If sober homes and treatment centers accept the same insurance, then they tend to trade patients. Although this may sound harmless, it is very illegal. Sober homes and treatment centers are not even allowed to discuss current patients, let alone what insurance plans they have.
According to HIPPA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), no hospital or drug and alcohol treatment center may disclose who is under their care. This law was specifically written to prevent fraud and patient brokering. The practice is not popular nationwide, but in the past few years, Florida has found itself in the spotlight.
Poor practices have lead to an influx of addicts and alcoholics who cannot find proper treatment. They are offered the moon and back only to find facilities that charge their insurance until it runs out, and then sign them up for Obama Care (and then charge that until it runs out as well!!).
Yes. It’s true. Even some facilities offer to fly patients in from around the country and sign them up for Obama Care. After this, they charge their insurance to the absolute max. The facilities take advantage of suffering people, exploit them, and spit them back out on the street. Patient brokering has become one of the main causes of the opioid overdose epidemic in South Florida.
Earlier this month, Boynton Beach Fire Rescue used an entire month’s supply of Naloxone (opioid overdose reversal drug) in one weekend. South Florida continues to break records monthly for number of drug overdoses. Prosecutors in the trial of sober homeo wner Kenny Chatman cited statistics like these in an attempt to end the madness.
Kenny Chatman is the latest figurehead of classic South Florida patient brokering. Just days ago, Chatman was sentenced to 27 ½ years in prison. All of his charges had to do with his sober home ventures in South Florida
Chatman has no experience or degrees in the medical field. Prior to his conviction, he had served 9 months for credit card skimming. He was a convicted felon who found a new way to exploit innocent people, but it wouldn’t last long.
Chatman was charged with patient brokering, human trafficking, sex trafficking, and insurance fraud, among many other charges. He took a plea deal. According to the Palm Beach Post, A US district judge questioned Chatman, “did you do all of those things?”, Chatman then replied “Yes.” Chatman ended up being sentenced to twice the amount of prison time as recommended by federal prosecutors. Many were calling for harsher punishment, but the state worried if they don’t offer plea deals then it will be harder to convict criminals.
One woman testified that Chatman kidnapped her and drugged her. She was then used as a sex slave for several months, being sold to hundreds of “patrons,” before escaping out of a window. This woman had come to Chatman for help and he exploited her situation. Several other women have come forward with similar stories and shared with the Palm Beach Post.
Though this scenario is exceptionally gruesome, other centers are not all-too-different. Some of these treatment centers may not sell patients for sex, but they still commit insurance fraud and leave helpless people on the streets of South Florida. Addicts are bought and sold until they no longer have “worth” to these companies.
Luckily, the Governor of Florida, Rick Scott, has declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. Harm reduction is being expanded and state funds are being allocated to sober home task forces. Over the past several months, more and more sober homes, treatment centers, and halfway houses have been raided by the Delray Sober Home Task Force and the FBI. With the new executive order, this is expected to increase. It will hopefully save lives and renew South Florida’s image as a destination to recover from addiction, safely and comfortably.