New California drug rehab rules call for honest advertising, insurance and naloxone

0
New California drug rehab rules call for honest advertising, insurance and naloxone

Rose and Allen Nelson display mementos of their eldest son, Brandon, including words he wrote as a child about his curiosity and excitement for the world, at their Santa Monica home. Brandon committed suicide at age 26, in an unlicensed Sovereign Health home where he was supposed to be receiving treatment for mental illness. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

They wanted the best possible care for their son. At Sovereign Health, they were told, he’d get it: He’d be closely monitored by a licensed therapist. And a psychiatrist. He’d get group therapy as well.

But shortly after suffering a debilitating psychotic break, in early 2018, Brandon Nelson wound up in an unlicensed “sober living home mental health facility” run by Sovereign. Left to his own devices, he used his sweatpants, and the fire sprinkler on the ceiling, to hang himself. He was 26.

“No family should have to go through what we’re going through — the death of a child when we thought he was getting care,” said his mother, Rose Nelson.

Brandon’s Law” aims to ensure that doesn’t happen again. It prohibits rehab operators from misrepresenting or making blatantly false claims about the services they offer or where they’re located.

It is also is just one of several bills signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom this month aimed at reforming California’s troubled for-profit mental health and addiction treatment industry.

“I’m so happy,” said Sen. Pat Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, who authored the law.  “It’s a path we’ve been on for quite some time. We want to make sure people receive the services they’re promised.”

In addition to the law to change rehab advertising, Newsom also signed into law a bill that will require recovery programs to have  liability insurance, a requirement that could go a long way toward weeding out “fly-by-night scammers,” said its author, Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris, D-Laguna Beach.

In addition to bringing higher standards to the industry, the new rule on insurance will protect patients when things go wrong. It was championed by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara.

“This is a great step forward,” said Petrie-Norris. “It’s going to create meaningful change.”

Newsom also signed several other bills into law that aim to save lives on the Rehab Riviera.

Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris, left, listens along with Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva, center, and Sen. Pat Bates, right, during a hearing on California’s addiction treatment issues in Costa Mesa in 2019. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

One, by Assemblymember Laurie Davies, R-Laguna Niguel, will require state-licensed treatment facilities to keep two unexpired doses of naloxone, and a staff member trained to administer it, at the ready. The drug is often effective at reversing opioid overdoses, and is carried by many first responders throughout the country.

Another, by Bates, requires facilities that are licensed or certified by the state to clearly disclose their license and certification numbers and the expiration dates on their web sites and other advertising material. The goal is to give consumers — who often are disabled or vulnerable while shopping for rehab services — more information.

Another new law aims to disperse the clouds of smoke emanating from the back yards of treatment and sober living homes by requiring operators to assess their patients for tobacco use and direct them to get treatment for smoking as well as for other substance abuse.

After the Southern California News Group began chronicling disturbing reports of deathsexual assault, drug abuse and paying for patients inside California’s loosely regulated addiction treatment industry in 2017, many laws have been passed to curb abuses. There also have been hearings and task forces, arrests and imprisonments.

There also have been more deaths, as the basic model of the for-profit treatment system in California remains unchanged. Six-bed treatment homes — often situated in residential tracks and manned by people with little medical training —  can be overwhelmed by the crises they face.

On Aug. 26, a man left a detox house in Newport Beach exhibiting signs of paranoid delirium. After several minutes of pre-dawn screaming, he broke into a neighbor’s house. That neighbor shot and killed 23-year-old Henry Richard Lehr. On Monday, Oct. 11, District Attorney Todd Spitzer announced it was a justified homicide and that the shooter would not face charges.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here