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Life After Rent Assistance: What’s Next?

Rent AssistanceThe Florida substance abuse treatment and recovery residence community has engaged in much discussion regarding the subject of responsible drug screening practices. This topic was a focal point of the August 2014 FADAA pre-conference workshop on recovery support services hosted by FARR in Orlando. The subject has been covered in great depth by industry trade and, to some extent, mainstream publications. Earlier this month, at the C4 Cape Cod Symposium, Dr. Andrea Barthwell, MD, FASAM, Michael Barnes, JD & Steven Passik, PhD delivered Proper Utilization of Urine Testing in Identifying and Treating Substance Use Disorders. This best practices presentation addresses the subject from a clinical perspective and should inform all stakeholders; including insurers. The presentation was described in the C4 program guide as follows:

“The bounds of medical necessity of substance use testing in addiction medicine and other clinical settings are currently being defined.  When used properly, SUT can provide objective data that health care practitioners may employ in the diagnosis, active treatment, and recovery phases of addiction treatment.  In February 2014 NAATP conducted a project to develop professional consensus on the proper use of UDT in identifying and treating substance use disorders. The project was necessitated by a general lack of clinical knowledge, concerns related to unethical behaviors causing over utilization, and the consequent emergence of ill-advised cost-saving measures, which have created confusion and imbalances in the use of testing services…”

Now, we all witnessed the FBI raid play out on television of a DCF licensed, intensive outpatient program (IOP) and recovery residence in West Palm Beach, FL. Allegations of insurance fraud and patient brokering continue to fuel the South Florida gossip stream with sensationalism. Nearly everyone who calls to congratulate FARR on our role wants to know “Who’s next?”

The honest truth is that FARR has absolutely no idea who is next. We have some definite ideas about who should be next, however we are not a law enforcement agency or state regulatory body. Our officers are not consulted by those leading the investigation. FARR participates in this law enforcement effort by funneling credible claims concerning patient brokering and insurance fraud to investigators. It’s strictly a one-way street. Clearly, law enforcement cannot comment on an ongoing investigation other than to inform us that this recent raid is the beginning of what will likely be a two year ‘clean-up effort’ focused primarily on the South Florida substance abuse treatment and recovery residence community.  William Griffin, a lead investigator, recently affirmed:

“We’re going to clean this mess up. Tell them if they’re not engaged in patient brokering and insurance fraud, then they’ve got nothing to worry about. If they are, then we’re going to find out and hold them accountable. It’s as simple as that.”

The better question might be “What’s next?” The majority of our industry is greatly encouraged by these developments. We are desperate for those who possess the authority to clean up the mess. FARR frequently voices our assertion that 80% of the community is represented by ethical operators who want to do the right thing. We have also pointed out that, in our experience, less than half of this group is clear with any certainty. This acute lack of clarity pervasively undermines good intent. FARR leadership is not focused on rounding up bad actors. That’s just not our job. We’re focused on raising the bar through the development of resources that further inform and guide those who seek to deliver quality programming. We encourage all certified residence operators, applicants for certification and the broader substance abuse treatment community to join us in Atlanta for the National Alliance for Recovery Residences (NARR) Best Practices Summit, October 17th through 19th.  This is the first event of its kind. Attendees from across the nation will gather together to commence the work of codifying decades of experience into best practice guides to better inform and educate providers. It’s a tremendous opportunity to actively participate in crafting solutions that positively impact those we serve.

FARR was founded to protect and serve residents. We carry out this mission by organizing providers under a single umbrella where they gain access to educational content, best practice guidelines and voluntary, verified compliance with nationally recognized standards. We will not tolerate willful dismissal of our standards by any FARR Certified Residence. While the clean-up role rightly belongs to law enforcement, FARR certainly has the responsibility and authority to revoke our certification for non-compliance. Our Ethics and Standards Committee is currently preparing an advisory concerning the topics of ‘drug screening’ and ‘rent assistance’. This advisory will be forwarded to all FARR Certified Residences, Partners in Excellence and Friends of FARR as well as published in the November 2014 issue of The Sober World magazine.  It is our goal to clarify any ambiguity and ensure the substance abuse treatment and recovery residence community understands our position on these issues.

FARR encourages those who have first-hand, credible knowledge of insurance fraud and patient brokering to step forward and help law enforcement to clean up South Florida now. Our national reputation, and thus our good names and livelihoods, rely on industry-wide participation in this much needed cleansing. The fact remains that we offer excellent programming in our region. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of those previously chained by the bondage of addiction have been set free right here in South Florida over the past forty years.

“South Florida: the insurance fraud and patient brokering epicenter of the nation’ to be our legacy. We deserve better and, more importantly, so do those who seek our help.”

Join us in Atlanta next month for the NARR Best Practices Summit; we all benefit by sharing our experience.

NARR Best Practices