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Profiteers of Tragedy: Making Money Off America’s Opioid Addicts

The opioid epidemic has given rise to an illicit gold rush as patient brokers and treatment centers exploit desperate addicts, funneling them to shoddy treatment centers and fraudulent “sober” homes at a profit of thousands per head. The profiteering, unfolding in communities across the country, has bilked insurers out of millions and created a shady subculture that takes advantage of a vulnerable population. This webinar will explain how to report on such fraudulent treatment schemes, explore how they have taken root in communities across the nation, how the legal system is trying to curb the problem, and what a healthy addiction treatment model could look like.

WHEN: Tuesday, October 31, from 10-11 a.m. PT / 1-2 p.m. ET

Our distinguished panel includes:

Dave Aronberg was elected state attorney for Florida’s 15th Judicial Circuit in November 2012 and re-elected in 2016. He is a former Assistant Attorney General, White House Fellow and Florida State Senator. As State Attorney, Aronberg leads a team of 120 prosecutors and 220 staff in five offices throughout Palm Beach County. Aronberg’s Sober Home Task Force received national attention for targeting fraud and abuse in Palm Beach County’s drug treatment industry. Born in Miami, Aronberg graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He went on to work in the litigation department of a large South Florida law firm. Aronberg was elected to the Florida State Senate in 2002 and served until 2010. In 2010, Aronberg returned to the Florida Attorney General’s Office as a Special Prosecutor for Prescription Drug Trafficking.

Keith Humphreys is a professor and the section director for mental health policy in the department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. He is also a senior research career scientist at the VA Health Services Research Center in Palo Alto and an honorary professor of psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College, London. His research addresses the prevention and treatment of addictive disorders, the formation of public policy and the extent to which subjects in medical research differ from patients seen in everyday clinical practice. Dr. Humphreys has been extensively involved in the formation of public policy, having served as a member of the White House Commission on Drug Free Communities, the VA National Mental Health Task Force, and the National Advisory Council of the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. He currently blogs for the Washington Post's Wonkblog, where he focuses on addiction, drug policy, mental health and the criminal justice system.

David Armstrong is a senior enterprise reporter for STAT. Armstrong previously worked as an investigative reporter at Bloomberg News, the Wall Street Journal, and the Boston Globe. He has written about the mistreatment of patients at one of the country's largest brain injury treatment facilities, fraud in the $300 billion pain industry, and the riches earned by medical entrepreneurs marketing dubious and dangerous procedures.

Evan Allen joined the Globe in 2011 as a freelance reporter covering the suburbs. She joined the staff in 2013, and has covered police, breaking news, and major events including the Boston Marathon bombings. She has also done investigative and narrative projects. Allen is now a member of the newsroom’s narrative team, where she focuses on crime.

 Webinars are free and made possible by the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation.

 Presenters' slides:


Suggested Reading


Desperate for addiction treatment, patients are pawns in lucrative insurance fraud scheme, by David Armstrong, STAT, and Evan Allen, Boston Globe, July 7, 2017

The addict brokers: Middlemen profit as desperate patients are ‘treated like paychecks’, by David Armstrong, STAT, and Evan Allen, Boston Globe, May 28, 2017

MA attorney general launches probe of addiction treatment fraud,  by David Armstrong, STAT, and Evan Allen, Boston Globe, September 29, 2017

Behind the luxury: Turmoil and shoddy care inside five-star addiction treatment centers, by David Armstrong, STAT, and Evan Allen, Boston Globe, August 25, 2017

Addiction treatment center’s admissions shut down by Mass. over safety concerns, by David Armstrong, STAT, and Evan Allen, Boston Globe, August 25, 2017

Opportunists are Exploiting the ACA to Prey on Drug Addicts, by Dave Aronberg, Time, September 20, 2017

Megyn Kelly’s Interview with Dave Aronberg, NBC News, June 25, 2017

San Clemente’s ‘discriminatory’ rules on addiction treatment centers intact after suit settles, by Teri Sforza, Orange County Register, September 11, 2017

‘Urgent…alarming’ – but rehab investigator won’t be in thick of SoCal action any time soon, by Teri Sforza,  Orange County Register,  July 21, 2017

California the over-regulator? Not for addiction treatment, by Teri Sforza, Orange County Register, June 23, 2017

Addiction treatment: The new gold rush. ‘It’s almost chic,’ by Teri Sforza, Orange County Register, June 21, 2017

How some Southern California drug rehab centers exploit addiction, by Teri Sforza et al, Orange County Register, May 30, 2017 

Addiction Treatment: Inside the Gold Rush,  multiple authors, Palm Beach Post, multiple dates

South Florida con artists turn 'sober homes' into insurance scam, by Fred Grimm,  Miami Herald, January 6, 2017

Other Resources

Palm Beach County Sober Homes Task Force Report 

Palm Beach County Grand Jury Report on the Proliferation of Fraud and Abuse in Florida’s Addiction Treatment Industry

$35 Billion U.S. Addiction Rehab Industry Poised For Growth, Marketdata Enterprises, Inc.

The Affordable Care Act  Transformation of Substance Use Disorder Treatment, by Keith Humphreys et al., American Journal of Public Health, January 2017, Vol 107, No. 1

How ACA Repeal Would Worsen the Opioid Epidemic, by Peter D. Friedmann, M.D., M.P.H., Christina M. Andrews, Ph.D., and Keith Humphreys, Ph.D., New England Journal of Medicine, March 9, 2017

An Overdose Antidote Goes Mainstream, by Keith Humphreys, Health Affairs, October 2015; Vol. 34, No. 10: 1624-1627

Despite Resources From The ACA, Most States Do Little To Help Addiction Treatment Programs Implement Health Care Reform, by Christina Andrews et al., Health Affairs, May 2015; Vol. 34, No. 5: 828–835

Addiction Treatment Professionals Are Not the Gatekeepers of Recovery, by Keith Humphreys; Substance Use Misuse,  2015; 50(8-9): 1024–1027

Weighing the Risks and Benefits of Chronic Opioid Therapy, by Anna Lembke, M.D.; Keith Humphreys, Ph.D.; and Jordan Newmark, M.D., Stanford University School of Medicine; American Family Physician, June 25, 2016;93(12):982-990

Survey Highlights Differences in Medicaid Coverage for Substance Use Treatment and Opioid Use Disorder Medications, by Colleen M. Grogan, Christina Andrews, Amanda Abraham, Keith Humphreys, Harold A. Pollack, Bikki Tran Smith, and Peter D. Friedmann, Health Affairs, Vol. 35, No.12 (2016):2289-2296


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