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.