Senate Approves “Brandon’s Law” to Ban Deceptive Marketing in Rehab Industry

Monday, May 17, 2021

The California State Senate today unanimously approved “Brandon’s Law” (Senate Bill 434) by Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) to prohibit an operator of rehabilitation treatment facilities from providing any form of false advertising or marketing services. SB 434 will head next to the Assembly for its consideration.

“I’m pleased that my Senate colleagues approved my bill to help stop the exploitation of vulnerable people seeking addiction treatment,” said Senator Bates, a former social worker whose beat encompassed communities ravaged by drug addiction. “While there is still work to do for the bill to become law, I’m very encouraged by the progress I have seen so far to end deceptive marketing.”

SB 434 would prohibit an operator of a licensed residential treatment facility or a certified alcohol or other drug program 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. The bill would authorize the California Department of Health Care Services to investigate allegations of misconduct and impose sanctions.

Senator Bates authored SB 434 due in part to a comprehensive investigation by the Southern California News Group (SCNG) that found that California’s hands-off approach to regulating the industry makes it easy for dishonest operators to take advantage of vulnerable individuals. According to the SCNG, they “found that destitute and homeless addicts can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to unscrupulous rehab centers, where those addicts often are bought, sold and exploited for their insurance payments.”

Senator Bates named the bill after Brandon Nelson, who passed away in 2018 at age 26 in an unlicensed rehab home. His parents, who signed Brandon up for care at the home, were assured that he would receive therapy sessions, a case manager, a house manager, and more.

Unfortunately, that is not what he received. According to the SCNG: “Nelson didn’t have a team of professionals overseeing his transition — he apparently didn’t even get his medications on time, according to his parents and police reports. What they got were sales pitches, not health-care advice, the Nelsons concluded.”

The goal of SB 434 is to protect individuals with addiction and ensure that they are receiving the treatment they are expecting. Ultimately, the measure seeks to protect those who are at their most vulnerable. Senator Bates wants marketers who knowingly and willfully make materially false statements, whether in advertising or by direct communication, to be held accountable.

SB 434 is co-authored by Senator Brian Jones (R-Santee) and Assemblymembers James Gallagher (R-Yuba), Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale), Devon Mathis (R-Visalia), Jim Patterson (R-Fresno), and Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach).