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By Supervisor Lisa Bartlett

Poorly operated addiction treatment facilities and sober living homes have horrible impacts on our quality of life and public safety in South Orange County. For years, local government has struggled to gain control over sober living homes because outdated federal laws handcuff our ability to regulate the industry. These protections were established to defend vulnerable patients, but instead have created a system that exploits the very people they are meant to serve.

Recent investigations led by the District Attorney’s Sober Living Home Investigation and Prosecution Project uncovered gross abuses in the treatment industry. It was found that these bad operators solicited dangerous experimental surgeries to vulnerable patients. Eleven suspects are being prosecuted for conspiring in the unauthorized practice of medicine and insurance fraud, among other charges. The investigations revealed that these illicit activities have provided funding for sober living homes.

For the last year, I’ve worked with County Supervisor Michelle Steel, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas and the OC Health Care Agency to enhance our oversight of the addiction treatment industry and sober living homes. On Oct. 16, the Orange County Board of Supervisors approved the first reading of the Addiction Treatment and Recovery Business Registration Ordinance (Registry Ordinance) with Supervisors Spitzer and Nelson abstaining. The Registry Ordinance will require all addiction treatment businesses operating in county unincorporated areas to disclose information about their business, investors and all affiliated parties including sober living homes.

This is the first major step in enhancing our oversight of the addiction treatment industry. Our aggressive efforts will allow public agencies to identify the network of addiction treatment companies and better position us to account for sober living homes so we can prevent abuses within the health care system. Our goal is for successful prosecutions to eliminate illicit funding that sober living homes depend on.

Right now the ordinance only applies to unincorporated Orange County. I am working with county staff to expand the program countywide and include incorporated cities. I encourage our South Orange County cities to partner with the county on this new program. Through partnership, we can ensure those suffering from addiction get the care they need and protect our communities.

Supervisor Lisa Bartlett represents the 5th District on the Orange County Board of Supervisors, which includes the cities of Aliso Viejo, Dana Point, (portions of) Irvine, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Woods, Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano.

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