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Crackdown On South Florida Addiction Treatment Fraud Has Unintended Consequences, Officials Say

Peter Haden
Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg warns of the dangers of fentanyl at the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office on July 11, 2017.

Law enforcement has been cracking down on corruption in South Florida’s drug treatment industry. State and federal officials have arrested more than 30 people for running scams in rehab centers or sober homes in the past year.

But the facilities are often filled with recovering drug users from out-of-state. And when the homes shut down, the residents frequently wind up on the street.

“We know we have a homelessness issue,” said Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, who heads the county’s sober home task force. “They’re not going back home to the Northeast. They’re staying in our community.”

Multiple cities including Lake Worth and Delray Beach are seeing increases in homelessness due to sober home closures, according to city officials. Several agencies are working to find alternative housing in some situations.

Some fraudulent operators are setting up shop elsewhere in Florida, Aronberg said.

“I’ve seen some move to the Treasure Coast — in Martin and St. Lucie counties,” said Aronberg. “It’s coming to them.”

The Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office is offering guidance and methods developed by the sober home task force to officials in other parts of the state.

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