Senate Committee Approves Senate GOP Leader Bates' Bill to Require Background Checks in Residential Treatment Facilities

Thursday, April 19, 2018

SACRAMENTO – The Senate Health Committee yesterday evening approved Senate Bill 902 by Senate Republican Leader Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) on a bipartisan vote that would require a state and federal criminal background check for operators of a residential treatment facility (RTF).

“I am pleased that the Senate Health Committee has advanced a common sense bill to screen out some of the bad actors in the residential treatment industry,” said Senator Bates.Today’s vote is a step in the right direction to address the abuses that have been highlighted by factual news stories over the past year. I will continue to press for reform to keep patients safe and protect the quality of life of surrounding communities.”

SB 902 would require the California Department of Health Care Services to conduct background checks before a person can be issued a license to own or operate an RTF.

In 2016, the Senate Health Committee rejected Senator Bates’ SB 1283 that would have allowed a city or county to craft health and safety standards specifically for sober living homes. The health committee did approve Senator Bates’ SB 34 that would direct the Department of Health Care Services to develop guidelines on how the department should report to the Legislature about its work related to RTFs, but the bill died in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The Southern California News Group found last year that as opioid addiction has soared, unscrupulous rehab operators have rushed in to take advantage of mandatory mental health treatment coverage required by the Affordable Care Act. It also found that the state’s hands-off approach to regulating the industry makes it easy for almost anyone to open a treatment center and charge insurance companies hundreds of thousands of dollars per client.

Senator Bates is hopeful that recent developments at the federal level will aid in efforts to encourage change at the state level. In November 2017, a bipartisan group of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee sent letters to California and five other state governments requesting information and staff briefings on allegations of patient brokering. 

This type of brokering is where men and women with addiction issues have been recruited to out-of-state facilities through offers for free travel, rent, cigarettes, and even manicures. Upon arrival to the treatment facilities, the patients frequently find they have been deceived, and are merely pawns in a profit scheme, resulting in chronic relapses, overdoses, and even death. Bipartisan congressional committee leaders launched their investigation in July 2017, writing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on the issue.

Senator Bates has also authored SB 1290 this year that would prohibit any licensee, operator, manager, consultant, employee, or patient of an RTF from offering, paying, soliciting, or receiving a kickback to induce the referral of a patient to or from an RTF. Additionally, SB 1290 would create the “Commission on Substance Abuse and Recovery” to effectively confront the statewide addiction and substance abuse crisis with appropriate care and consideration of local effects. SB 1290 is modeled after Florida law and the Senate Health Committee will consider the bill on April 25th.