California Legislature Shoots Down Transparency Touted in Substance Abuse Brokerage Bill

By Vy Tran

SACRAMENTO, CA — Senate Bill 913 was being held in the Senate Appropriations Committee here at the State Capitol, but it was killed last week, and author and Sen. Thomas J. Umberg (D-Orange County), Chair of the California Senate Judiciary Committee, voiced his concerns.

“As we battle the state’s opioid and fentanyl crisis, we cannot move people onto a path of recovery without the beds and facilities in which to place them. Today’s failure of SB 913 will lead to the funneling of more and more addicts and their families into substandard treatment and recovery facilities and only exacerbate the proliferation of ‘body brokering’ and unlicensed facilities in our communities,” Umberg wrote.

The lawmaker added, “I’m worried that today’s vote sends a very clear message to a struggling population that the state doesn’t really care about them in their darkest hours.”

Jackie Koenig, Communications Director under Senator Umberg, reported SB 913 had bipartisan support, noting, “It would have added local enforcement mechanisms to existing regulations regarding ‘body brokering’ or ‘patient brokering,’ —the act of ‘selling’ patients to addiction treatment centers in exchange for financial or other benefits.”

Koenig added after robust discussions with zero “no” votes earlier this year, the measure was sponsored by the League of California Cities and passed the Senate Health and Judiciary Committees.

SB 913, according to the Legislative Counsel’s Digest, would have required laboratories and outpatient treatment programs that lease, manage or own housing to individuals as part of the offered services to be transparent with a separate housing contract.

In addition, according to the stipulations, treatment facilities that deal with alcoholism or drug abuse recovery must offer “discounted post discharge housing” and specified transportation services under certain conditions, given that the patient enters a “repayment plan for any subsidized rent.”

Finally, SB 913 sought to grant the sole authority in state government to the State Department of Health Care Services in licensing adult alcoholism or drug abuse recovery treatment facilities.

This bill, according to the counsel, would have authorized the department to conduct site visits to these licensed facilities for the “purpose of determining compliance with applicable statutes and regulations.”

“Representing Orange County for the past 30 years, I’ve had a front row seat to the growth of the ‘Rehab Riviera’ and I’ve spoken with numerous families who have been failed by lax oversight and fraudulent operators,” Sen. Umberg stated.

“But to be clear, SB 913 has always been about more than just regulation. It is about respect, recovery, and restoring trust in our systems designed to support an addict’s journey towards healing,” the lawmaker argued.

About The Author

Vy Tran is a 4th-year student at UCLA pursuing a B.A. in Political Science--Comparative Politics and a planned minor in Professional Writing. Her academic interests include political theory, creative writing, copyediting, entertainment law, and criminal psychology. She has a passion for the analytical essay form, delving deep into correlational and description research for various topics, such as constituency psychology, East-Asian foreign relations, and narrative theory within transformative literature. When not advocating for awareness against the American carceral state, Vy constantly navigates the Internet for the next wave of pop culture trends and resurgences. That, or she opens a blank Google doc to start writing a new romance fiction on a whim, with an açaí bowl by her side.

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