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The End of an Era: New California Bills Put an End to the Wild Wild West of Treatment

It’s 2020 and many things are changing for addiction treatment programs around the country. 

Thanks to activists, representatives and the voices of those in the industry, many laws have passed in various states that not only affect how a program can operate but there are bills in the works that can affect how a treatment center can ethically and legally market online. 

Ground Zero for Patient Brokers

When the opioid epidemic began to hit middle America, thousands of those addicted flocked to various sources to find help for their substance abuse problem. Two states, Florida and California, became ground zero for a new type of fraud, “patient brokering”. 

During this time “patient brokering” began as a means to fill specific facilities by bribing the potential clients with money, gifts, and free rent. While there are those who wound up at decent treatment programs, many were put into a hamster wheel that consisted of stays in treatment, time in recovery, a push to relapse, allowed usage and back to treatment again. 

From shady sober living homes that allow clients to use as long as their rent is paid to treatment centers that release clients because they need the beds for people with better insurance, the addiction treatment industry has seen its fair share of scandals over the last few years. 

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A Call to Action

While California has had various regulations over the years and created the first system for certified recovery residences, Florida was the first state to take action legally against the injustices going on in the industry. 

Palm Beach County in Florida passed the first patient brokering laws in the state with many counties following suit after the success of the Sober Home Task Force in curbing patient brokering, insurance fraud and other acts that are criminally harmful to those seeking treatment for substance abuse. 

Taking a note from Florida, California passed a slew of bills at the end of 2019 that define many of the gray areas and solidify what is and isn’t okay in the addiction treatment industry. 

Breaking Down the Laws: What California Drug Rehabs Need to Know

For California specifically, the laws that have passed affect numerous areas from sober living homes, to outpatient programs and more. Let’s breakdown California Bill AB-919 and the major parts of the bill that you need to know.

Patient Brokering

The first part of the bill takes aim at the payment or receipt of payment for the referral of a patient to a specific treatment program. The act of patient brokering has become one of the leading issues representatives and advocates alike have worked to put an end too. 

“When you pay people to go to your program you are removing the power of choice that consumers are promised in the US.,” says one recovery advocate.

As of January 1, 2020, California Bill AB-919 became effective, and part of the bill created an oversight department where programs can be held accountable for their actions. With active investigations on-going around the country, we can expect more and more programs to turn to digital marketing and SEO as an ethical solution to acquiring new clients.

Separating Labs, Treatment & Sober Living

The next part of the bills focuses on a few key areas within the treatment industry: outpatient & sober living, labs, and transportation. 

In reference to outpatient programs, the state is now requiring DHCS licensing, where it was not previously required for an outpatient program to be licensed by the state. The second item relating to sober living homes has to do with separating housing costs from outpatient costs and laboratory fees.

(a) A laboratory or certified outpatient treatment program that leases, manages, or owns housing units that are offered to individuals who concurrently utilize laboratory or outpatient services shall maintain separate contracts for the housing. The contract shall clearly state that payment for housing is the responsibility of the individual and does not depend on insurance benefits. The contract shall include a repayment plan for any subsidized rent, and the laboratory or certified outpatient treatment program shall make a good faith effort to collect the debt. The offer for housing shall not depend on the individual’s agreement to receive services from either the laboratory or the certified outpatient treatment program.

When a client enters an outpatient program that offers housing, the cost of housing must be clearly defined and written out, with neither service being contingent on the other. This includes using laboratory services, where a program or housing program must make every attempt to collect the debt of the client for those services. 

In this same area, the text covers transportation costs and assisting clients in traveling to the program, depending on their mileage. If a person seeking recovery is within 125 miles, a program can cover the cost of ground transportation to their facility. If a potential client is in need of air transportation, the program can cover the cost of airfare as long as a return ticket is included. The client then has up to one year from discharge to request the unused return flight. 

More Changes to Come

With numerous bills signed and awaiting signatures from governors around the country, we can only expect to see more changes to the addiction treatment industry as 2020 progresses. 

California has specific bills aimed at digital marketing that can affect how all programs advertise moving forward. California Bill SB-589 is awaiting Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk, which would require treatment programs to accurately portray their program on the internet and ban the use of competitor program names as keywords in paid advertising. These are just a few of the changes in a number of bills in California that will affect your program, especially if you have no organic SEO presence. 

MGMT Digital has over 10+ years of experience marketing addiction treatment centers online, and SEO is our bread and butter. Find out where your program ranks and how digital marketing can help provide your program with an ethical solution to new client acquisition.

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