Rehab Riviera: Clever attempt to professionalize the California addiction industry meets sad ending

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The dome of the State Capitol lights up in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

It was such a wonderfully clever calculation. With a wave of a (bureaucratic) magic wand, it could have imposed some order on a recalcitrant, high-priced, life-and-death industry.

But like other sparks of legislative genius – such as what is actually needed by the vast majority of California’s addiction treatment centers. licensed – It hit a wall in Sacramento.

Rep. Coty Petri-Norris’ bill, AB 2087, would have done something elegant and logical to protect vulnerable people seeking sobriety, as well as the neighborhoods they live in: it would simply require that businesses and employees able to protect their customers / themselves. Distributing medication to patients. Must be licensed to actually distribute or offer prescription drugs to its customers/patients.

Crazy, right?

It would also have allowed people to sue companies that didn’t follow the law.

If you haven’t followed all of the stresses and pitfalls of our addiction treatment industry coverage for the past five years, it’s extremely common for “property managers” or “houses” (including licensed treatment centers and unlicensed rest homes) to close and then close them to clients/patients on a daily basis distribute the ones they need so that patients can “self-manage” their prescriptions.

He’s not a pharmacist. Often the most important testimonials from house managers or technicians are that they have been sober for a few months and/or have gone through the program they are now working for. But this “self-governing” loophole allows treatment and recovery companies to evade licensing — and things can get a lot worse.

Facebook profile picture of Henry Lehr.

death before dawn

In the early hours of August 26, 2021, an enraged Henry Richard Lehr is displaying symptoms of paranoid delirium from the Gratitude Lodge detox home in Newport Beach. He screamed to go, being chased, screamed to go home. He broke into a nice house in the nearby cul-de-sac; The man inside had a gun; And within seconds, Lehr — an aspiring singer-songwriter with a “phonographic” memory who struggled with alcoholism and other substances — was dead. He was 23 years old.

Lehr got a cocktail of contraceptives, Petrie-Norris said as he introduced the bill to the Legislature.

“Clearly this young man should have been in a facility with more oversight and surveillance,” Petrie-Norris said. “I think this sad example really underscores the need for this bill and the need to strengthen oversight of drug distribution, particularly in convalescent homes.”

The bill was the last to be called “Jarrod’s Law,” after Wendy McEntire’s son, who died of an overdose in a sober apartment building in the San Fernando Valley. The three-bedroom house was home to 24 men, and one brought a “speedball” to share.

Wendy McEntire, founder of the nonprofit Jarrods Law (File photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

“The staff responsible for his care did nothing to save or revive him,” McEntire told lawmakers. “He was left alone for hours to breathe his last while the fire department was only two blocks away, but he was never called.

“This utter negligence and carelessness opened my eyes to the unfortunate fact that I am not alone. Again and again families send their loved ones for treatment in the hope that they will eventually get help. Only his loved ones face conditions worse than addiction.”

She said (although we’ll tell you more about that soon). He said that we need to close this very dangerous loophole.

Christian Acheson tells lawmakers how he signed up for a six-month, $120,000 program in 2020 with a provider in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa. He said a “household” works out of the garage of an unlicensed home, distributing medication to dozens of patients morning, afternoon and evening.

Attasan was eventually “stopped” — the jargon for opting out when insurance benefits ended — but the provider continued to order drugs on his behalf, he said. He was left homeless, resulting in increased vertebral damage; But he outdid others who treated him. Many died, he said.

failed again

There was no formal protest on the files.

However, an analysis of the draft law found that the existing law already prohibits the use of unlicensed drugs.

And this existing law already allows people to be sued for unfair business practices.

And that expressly granting the right to sue in these cases could shut down courts and — wait for it — cost the state another $265,600 a year.

And money is tight these days! (Oh wait, isn’t there a $49 billion surplus in the state budget or something…?)

Coty Petri-Norris (Photo by Mark Wrightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

“It died in appropriation,” said Petri-Norris. “The official explanation is that bills are dying because they cost the government money and don’t make it into the spending ranks. It’s like a black box.

“In my view, this is the latest in four years of failed legislation trying to regulate this industry and protect patients,” she said.

“To me, many of my colleagues don’t see the urgency of this problem. As we know, it’s focused on our communities on the Orange County coast and a few other places. It’s not widespread.

“In order for us to move the needle, we need individuals and their families – who have had these experiences and who have been harmed – we need them to speak out, to raise awareness so more lawmakers understand it’s urgent.” It’s fair to say it’s a matter of life and death.”

McEntire is also disappointed but vows to keep working to raise the bar.

“The administration of drugs is a licensed service and that is criminal[the California Department of Health Care Services]allows self-government to evade licensing,” she said via email.

We’ve said this many times over the past five years, but here it is again: There’s always next year. But how many people will die by then?

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