featured graphic for Thomas Umberg, California State Senator for District 34, during COVID-19

Senator Tom Umberg introduces legislation to protect Californians from predatory substance abuse treatment practices

Senator Thomas Umberg (D-Orange County) introduced The California Ethical Treatment of Persons with Addiction Act, (Senate Bill 349) a critical and timely new law to protect California’s most vulnerable patients, those seeking treatment for substance use disorders, from predatory practices.

Senator Umberg shared that 7,121 Californians tragically died of drug overdoses (79,251 nationally) in the 12-month period ending in May 2020. This is part of a skyrocketing rise, with overdose deaths in California up 26.8% in the period between June 2019 and June 2020. Nationally, in that same time frame, deaths were up 21.3%. These numbers are expected to continue to rise as social isolation and limited access to treatment are aggravated by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

While the demand for treatment continues to increase, “those with substance use disorders must be encouraged to seek treatment in the many excellent drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs in our state — programs that, quite frankly, are doing heroic and lifesaving work,” said Senator Umberg. “But increasingly, distraught families are at risk for falling prey to a new breed of purported treatment programs that are in fact engaging in predatory and unethical practices.”

These bad actors seek financial gain through exploitation of the increased access to insurance coverage, and know how to shield themselves from federal and state oversight. In addition to diverting scarce funds meant for quality treatment, these predatory practices endanger the lives of those seeking recovery, and wrongly discourage those with addiction from undergoing the rigors of quality treatment.

Model legislation created by the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws (NAMSDL) form the basis of SB 349’s provisions, which create the tools to root out, punish and deter these reprehensible practices. The “California Ethical Treatment of Persons with Addiction Act,” addresses truth in marketing, lead generation and referrals, drug testing, recovery residences, patient brokering and kickbacks, managed care, and accountability. It creates a level playing field that denies advantage to programs and personnel that engage in, or support, predatory, unsafe, and unethical practices.

“As the former Deputy Drug Czar under President Clinton, I know first-hand the extent to which substance abuse destroys the lives of individuals and their families,” said Senator Umberg. “It’s time for us to create a set of standards for this industry that people can trust in their time of need.” NAMSDL President, Michele Worobiec, applauded Senator Umberg as a “courageous national leader who recognized the seriousness of the problem and the need for immediate action.”

The California Ethical Treatment of Persons with Addiction Act was created by NAMSDL with the financial support of both Arnold Ventures and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and is co-sponsored by the California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals (CCAPP).

The text of SB 349 can be found at http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov. The measure will be considered by Senate policy committees in the coming months.

This article was released by the Office of Senator Thomas Umberg.


  1. It saddens me to see an article like this one. I have been advocating for the mentally ill in Orange County suffering from a co-occurring illness, ie.suffering from drug addiction and mental health both. Families go through a long process of getting their loved ones placed into a mental health hospital, and the lucky few make it into a dwindling number of board and cares. Our hospitals, board and cares, and other placements like Step Downs from hospitals, are plagued with individuals preying on these individuals by selling them small quantities of drugs. Even the smallest quantity will often cause a major relapse, incarceration, re-hospitalizations, or worse. This is the most venerable population that Senator Tom Umberg fails to realize needs the most help and protection from these predators. I reached out to Senator Umberg’s office with a legislative proposal to set up drug free zones around our housing and treatment centers and hospitals. His staff failed to return phone calls to me or my assistant, a PH.D. that served on our Orange County Mental Health Board. Even when I attempted to reach out to Senator Umberg’s staff, they failed the courtesy to respond. Persons with substance addictions are a vulnerable population. Co-occurring populations are the “MOST” vulnerable, and Senator Umberg’s office has failed them. The impact is not limited to the detrimental outcomes that this population suffers from. The millions of dollars spent by our taxpayers that provide substance abuse treatment, hospitalizations, and stability, are lost when this population recidvates, costing millions of dollars of investment to be lost, and needing to be administer again many times over to a revolving door. I would not be bragging about being a president’s drug czar with this type of failure to even act on the much needed legislative needs to curb such a substantial loss of taxpayers hard earned money, and the suffering that plagues this most vulnerable population. It galls me to read such flag waving and fanfare that this article puts forth.

  2. Well I can’t get help from umberg his office told me they would help me but to no avail nothing I am about to loose my car apt I spoke to mr Santana who promised to help but nothing my unemployment stopped for nothing it’s not fraud it’s me I got checks for 6 months now I am stuck in a holding faze bcuz of identity plz help

Comments are closed.