There is no turning back the fact that Florida is the Recovery Capital of the United States. Accepting that moniker, Florida is embarking on an effort to raise the bar of regulation to ensure that people who do come to the state, and South Florida in particular, can be assured that the care and housing they are provided in on par with the State’s excellent reputation for medical healthcare.
So, what changes are on the horizon in 2017?
- Marketing – The single largest source of confusion for providers is the legal acquisition of patients. For parents and loved ones, the ability to identify ethical and appropriate providers has been riddled by an unregulated landscape. Proposed for 2017 is a series of laws to create transparency in treatment and housing marketing. Call centers will be required to identify who their clients are. Would-be “marketers” will themselves have to be licensed, and hopefully, achieve a level of professional education so they can best place patients with matching treatment centers. This, however, takes money to create the necessary oversight to ensure predatory marketing is not allowed to fester.
- Teeth in Licensing – Like other states, Florida has assigned oversight of this multi-billion dollar industry to a social service agency (the Department of Children and Families or “DCF”). This is the same state agency tasked with child welfare and other social services for which there is no immediate and tangible “return on investment.” Floridians, unlike their counterparts on the west coast or northeast, tend to loathe assigning state taxpayer dollars to matters which do not earn a profit. Florida’s education system is equally victim to this mindset, leaving it to each individual county to raise sufficient funds to provide quality schools. However, when the state turned off the funding to DCF a lifetime ago, and created a very permissive licensing scheme for treatment providers, coupled with the largest drug abuse epidemic in our nation’s history, the conditions were perfect for abuse. Particularly in a state famous for creating fraudulent financial schemes. While this is all set to change in 2017, again, regulation requires regulators, which requires funding, something that our federal government and state government have been too slow to recognize, until now.
- Robust Law Enforcement – While the word “patient brokering” has become synonymous with all that is wrong with the present treatment and housing industry in Florida, it has finally been recognized by the Palm Beach County Grand Jury as well as the legislatively-funded Sober Home Task Force that not all industry providers are “bad actors.” Many simply do not have the education, background, or resources to be operating a treatment program. Still, there is no prohibition from them doing so. Therefore, in concert with licensing regulators, law enforcement will be taking a more robust role in 2017, coming on the heels on many high profile arrests in November and December of 2016. This, too, requires money to pay for these resources.
- Sober Home Regulation – Cities and counties continue to demand regulation of sober living residences, but for all the wrong reasons. They continue to articulate that these “businesses” have no business being in a residential neighborhood. While the Congressional Record leading to the adoption of the original Fair Housing Act; the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988; and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, all tell a story of a population hostile to anyone who wasn’t deemed “normal” by the masses, we have also come to understand and learn that not all sober living residences are created equal. For every “Oxford House” or dwelling where people who are established in their recovery freely elect to live together in a peer supported dwelling of their own choosing, a vast number of such dwellings are housing people new to their own recovery journey, and for which there is no research or science presently existing to support the need to have such homes in single family neighborhoods. While not inherently incompatible, any home housing people in active treatment should be held to higher scrutiny for the purpose of ensuring that those who depend upon the care provided can actually reach that potential, rather than be recycled as the next warm body with an insurance card. Equally, such homes have proven to be mere fronts for persons housing people in active addiction, in order to be sold or bartered to the next treatment center with demand. This is expected to come to an abrupt halt in 2017 as “Recovery residence” regulation continues to gain acceptance from the recovery community itself, in order to weed out the unscrupulous from the true healers and caregivers. The Florida Association of Recovery Residences or “FARR” has been the agency assigned with such regulation, but given an unfunded mandate. This too appears to be on the horizon of change.
In the end, it simply is all going to come down to money. We have historically underfunded such agencies and the toll on our society is only now coming home to roost.
Happy New Year to everyone!