During a brief presentation at a meeting of the Palm Beach County Commission and its Legislative Delegation, Democratic Senator Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth urged his colleagues to support a bill soon to be proposed by Republican Rep. Bill Hager of Boca Raton that will address sober home regulation.
Palm Beach County Mayor Paulette Burdick praised the Palm Beach Post for its investigation of corruption in the drug treatment industry and the opioid epidemic.
“We as elected officials work hard in the community and have created task forces but the media, in particular our local Palm Beach Post, has done a wonderful job with presenting the faces of the addiction problem and the health care issues statewide that effect all of us,” Burdick said, referring to a recent article that estimated the cost of the opioid epidemic at Florida hospitals at $1.1 billion.
Assistant County Administrator Todd Bonlarron, formerly the county’s top lobbyist, said he has sent “dozens” of articles from the Post’s series to the White House National Office of Drug Control Policy, hoping to show the extent of the problem.
“We really have struggled in Congress to make the case that we are dealing with a crisis,” Bonlarron said. “This really is a priority issue for us.”
Clemens said he will seek money to continue funding the Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force, created by Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg. The task force has made 9 arrests and drafted proposed legislation.
Clemens and Hager have led the 4-year-long battle to reign in sober homes and succeeded in passing a bill that prohibits treatment centers from referring patients to sober homes that have not been certified by the Florida Association of Recovery Residences.
The county will also seek more money for the Southeast Florida Behavioral Health Network, which is contracted by the Department of Children and Families to oversee drug treatment providers.