Corruption in South Florida’s drug treatment industry grabbed headlines on the web on Saturday with an in-depth story by Buzzfeed News – the online news and entertainment giant.
The article chronicled recovering addicts victimized in some of the scams uncovered in the Palm Beach Post’s 8-month investigation. By linking to several Post stories, the Buzzfeed article – “Addicts for Sale” – explained how addicts with insurance are bought and sold by “marketers,” “body brokers” and “junkie hunters” who work for sober homes.
The story focused on Delray Beach, where hundreds of sober homes and outpatient treatment program are the focus of a 2-year-investigation by and FBI task force. Investigators raided two sober homes. However, no charges have been filed.
Besides patient brokering, authorities are investigating insurance fraud resulting from unnecessary urine drug tests and kickbacks paid to addicts, sober home operators, outpatient treatment programs and labs – all who need addict’s urine to continue billing insurance companies.
Under the radar, local fortunes are being made here, and quickly, from getting addicts and alcoholics clean and sober.
With the big money has come big problems: Reports of kickbacks, patient brokering, inflated medical testing bills and insurance fraud are rampant. Take the out of state couple who opened a bill from a local drug testing lab with links to the sober home where their son was treated, to find a $300,000-plus bill. For urine testing.
In fact, South Florida drug testing labs affiliated with sober homes have mushroomed in the last few years, creating potential for conflicts of interest – and hefty revenue – as sober home clients are told urine testing is required, then steered to the lab owned by the sober home operator, or one the operator has a financial interest in.
It’s against this backdrop, and the state’s weak efforts to regulate sober homes, that the Florida Association of Recovery Residences, a Boca-based association of sober home owners and treatment businesses, gets its Orlando conference off the ground this morning.
Maybe the FBI will come, too – they’ve been investigating for months now….