Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel), a former social worker who served in communities affected by drug abuse and who has authored and co-authored several bills to end abuses in the addiction treatment industry over the past five years, participated in a bipartisan oversight hearing in Costa Mesa today to advocate for meaningful reforms.
“Today’s hearing underscores the obvious – the need for the Legislature and Governor Newsom to work together to end abuses in the addiction treatment industry,” said Bates. “While we have passed some reforms, more needs to be done to protect the health of patients and the public safety of affected communities. My panel colleagues and I have worked on several bills over the past few years that provide a framework for solutions and we intend to introduce more reforms next year. It is my hope the additional interest in this issue will generate more bipartisan progress moving forward.”
The Assembly Committee on Accountability and Administrative Review conducted the public hearing, which took place at Costa Mesa’s City Hall. Senator Bates participated in discussions with the committee’s chair, Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach); Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton); state and local government officials; operators of substance abuse facilities; and concerned community members.
Senator Bates is a member of the Bipartisan Legislative Substance Abuse Treatment Working Group. She has participated in numerous public and private meetings regarding the addiction treatment industry over the past five years, including co-hosting town halls attended by hundreds of constituents in Oceanside, Laguna Hills, San Clemente, and Ladera Ranch.
She has worked with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department to author legislation that would help protect Californians from the dangers of fentanyl (a synthetic opioid) and pursue illegal distributors. In March 2019, the Senate Public Safety Committee declined to pass Senate Bill 161. The committee also blocked SB 1103 in 2018 and SB 176 in 2017. In 2016, the Assembly Appropriations Committee did not approve SB 1323.
In regard to sober living homes and recovery facilities, she has authored and co-authored several bills to end abuses since her election to the Senate. Some of these bills are highlighted below.
Senator Bates authored SB 486 to add commercially-operated recovery residences to the list of entities that cannot give or receive anything of value for the referral of an individual seeking alcoholism or drug abuse recovery and treatment services, as established by SB 1228 last year. It also adds a $50,000 penalty for violations. This bill was made into a two-year bill and will be heard again in January 2020.
She also authored SB 589 to prohibit an operator of a licensed residential treatment facility, a certified alcohol or other drug program, a recovery residence, or a third party, from providing any form of false advertising or marketing services, including making a false or misleading statement about the entity’s products, goods, services, or geographical locations. SB 589 also authorizes the state to investigate allegations of misconduct and impose sanctions. Governor Newsom vetoed the bill.
Senator Bates authored two bills on sober living homes and residential treatment facilities: SB 902 and SB 1290. SB 902 requires background checks for licensed operators of residential treatment facilities. SB 1290 prohibits patient brokering, modeled after Florida’s “Patient Brokering Act” spearheaded by Dave Aronberg, the Democratic State Attorney for Palm Beach County.
Anti-kickback statutes like SB 1290 are designed to prevent insurance fraud and abusive practices resulting from provider decisions that are based on self-interest rather than cost, quality of care, or necessity of services. Unfortunately, both of these bills died in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Two bills that Senator Bates co-authored were signed by Governor Brown: SB 992 (Hernandez) and AB 3162 (Friedman). SB 992 requires all alcoholism and drug abuse recovery or treatment facilities to disclose specified information to the California Department of Health Care Services and requires residential treatment facilities to develop a plan to address relapses.
AB 3162 makes initial licenses for residential treatment facilities provisional for one year, requires services offered by the residential treatment facility to be specified on the license and provided within the licensed residential treatment facility, and increases civil penalties for the violation of licensing law.
Senator Bates authored SB 34 to direct the Department of Health Care Services to develop guidelines on how the department should report to the Legislature about its work related to residential treatment facilities. The Senate Appropriations Committee did not pass the bill.
Senator Bates co-authored AB 1095 (Harper) to allow local governments to zone integral facilities, which are two or more “6 and under” licensed treatment homes, similar to “7 and over” licensed treatment homes, if they operate in a campus-like environment. This would include sharing meal services, treatment programs, counseling sessions, transit, management, etc. This bill died in the Assembly Health Committee.
Senator Bates authored, with Assemblyman Bill Brough as principal co-author, Senate Bill 1283. This bill would have authorized a city or county to adopt health and safety standards for structured sober living homes. City and county ordinances could include, but would not be limited to, mandatory registration requirements, in-home supervision requirements for the residents, and an operation plan that addresses maintenance of the property and noise abatement. This bill was modeled on legislation that the Arizona Legislature passed on a bipartisan vote and signed into law by Arizona’s governor in 2016.
Senate Bill 1283 was defeated in the Senate Health Committee, while facing strong opposition from certain operators of sober living homes who mischaracterized the bill’s purpose and intent.
Senator Bates also co-authored AB 2772 (Chang), which would have required a person who has been ordered or required to participate in a drug treatment program to seek treatment only from an alcoholism and drug abuse recovery or treatment facility that is licensed by the State Department of Health Care Services and that is in compliance with the local laws where the facility is located. The Assembly Public Safety Committee rejected this bill on a party-line vote.
She partnered with Assemblyman Brough to request the California State Library to produce a report titled “Sober Living Homes in California: Options for State and Local Regulation,” which provided the Legislature and the public with a history of the issue and policy options.