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RELEASE: Bill to Strengthen Patient Protections in Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Treatment Advances - Department of Health Care Services to Play a Critical Role in New State Effort

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO – Assembly bills (AB) 919 and 920, authored by Assemblywoman Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach), passed out of the Senate Health Committee today with bipartisan support. Both bills aim to increase patient protections in Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Treatment facilities.

Assemblywoman Petrie-Norris said, “As stories of abuse in the system continue, it is clear that the current framework for how the State handles substance abuse treatment has not caught up with how unscrupulous actors have been exploiting the system. AB 919 and AB 920 aim to update this framework and provide the state with the tools and resources to protect patients seeking substance abuse treatment through strong and effective enforcement.”

In support of AB 920, Wendy McEntyre of Jarrod’s Law testified in committee and shared the story of losing her 23 year old son, Jarrod, in a sober living home called “The Safe House.” In her journey to find out how and why her son passed away, Wendy discovered that there is little to no oversight or accountability of sober living homes on either a federal, state, or local level.

Wendy McEntyre testified in committee saying, “I am here today to give voice to victims, survivors and fighters who are stigmatized from seeking help. There is nothing that I can do to bring my son back to me. After Jarrod’s passing, I was determined to get to the bottom of his death. I was devastated to learn that his death was preventable and that the lack of regulation at the so-called “Safe House” was to blame. I commend the Assemblywoman for her ongoing leadership and advocacy on this critical issue, and I am proud take part in this effort to protect patients.”

In 2017, there were 2,196 opioid overdose related deaths in California. While there are good actors that are doing positive work for those seeking recovery, unscrupulous operators have been exploiting patients to reap high profits. In its most insidious forms, body brokers encourage patients in recovery to start using drugs again in order to be eligible for recovery services, often patients are lured in with the promise of free housing and transportation. These unscrupulous facilities are organized and designed to generate quick profits rather than assist patients with treatment and recovery from an SUD. After the facility burns out the patient’s insurance, the facility curbs the patient to the sidewalk, exacerbating California’s homelessness crisis.

AB 919 will require the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) to establish an enforcement program to effectively prevent and stop body brokering schemes that prey on vulnerable patients seeking legitimate SUD treatment. In addition, this bill prohibits and limits SUD recovery and treatment facilities from offering housing and transportation free of charge as inducements to treatment.

AB 920, known as Jarrod’s Law, will improve and update California’s framework for substance abuse treatment by directing DHCS to convene a working group of stakeholders to update and clean up California law pertaining to substance abuse treatment in the state. This will enable lawmakers to develop policies to stop exploitation in the recovery industry, establish standards for treatment programs and providers, and hold unscrupulous actors accountable.