A crackdown on sober home corruption took a big step forward on Wednesday after House members unanimously voted to pass a bill strengthening the state's role in prosecuting criminal and regulatory violations.
Rep. Bill Hager, a Republican from Boca Raton who is sponsoring the measure (HB 807), hopes this is the next step toward stopping problems at substance abuse treatment centers in Florida.
"Based on hearings we held, we found evidence of patient brokering, insurance fraud, human trafficking, forced labor and sex abuse," Hager said. "Our goal is to eliminate the exploitation of those in recovery and end the cycle of recovery to relapse."
Under the bill, sober home operators who allow fraudulent marketing for their operation or run a facility without a license would face criminal penalties punishable by up to five years in prison.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has prioritized this piece of legislation saying it will "help curb unscrupulous clinics and protect vulnerable Floridians."
The proposed legislation would be creating a certification program for sober homes based on the recommendations of a state-funded task force that investigated issues at sober homes last year.
The House bill now heads to the Florida Senate, where a companion bill awaits.
The Florida Legislature is currently considering bills that tackle the state's rising opioid abuse problem. One of the bills moving ahead in the process would add fentanyl and other synthetic drugs to the state's drug trafficking offense.