8 months ago, Florida was home to 953 licensed drug treatment centers, and 207 were in Palm Beach County. As of April 1, there are now 185 in Palm Beach, with 771 in the whole state. This decrease is due to the crackdown on fraud by Palm Beach State Attorney’s Office, which has led to 45 arrests in the last year and a half. So far, those arrests have led to 16 convictions. For State Attorney Dave Aronberg there is no sign of slowing down.
Recently, Dave Aronberg spoke with Opioid Watch to talk about the work his office has been doing to try and strengthen the addiction treatment industry. Chief Assistant State Attorney Alan Johnson also sat down to talk about how Palm Beach County is fighting to protect those who are coming to Florida for help. Johnson heads the office’s Sober Homes Task Force.
Dave Aronberg VS Purdue Pharma
According to Aronberg, he got involved with opioid-related issues back in 2001, when he was an assistant attorney general. Aronberg says he was asked by his boss, Bob Butterworth, to investigate Purdue Pharma. This Big Pharma giant is the producer of OxyContin. This powerful prescription opioid has been credited with making a heavy contribution to the opioid crisis. Dave Aronberg was to examine the marketing practices of Purdue Pharma, and is quoted in the interview transcript stating:
“I believe we were one of the first in the country.”
Of course, now Purdue Pharma is one of many big name pharmaceutical companies being accused in lawsuits across America. In fact, Delray Beach, Florida recently filed its own case against the company.
When asked about what he found, Aronberg said that Purdue was marketing the product like it was Advil. Purdue has been repeatedly accused of pushing this product as if it was far less dangerous than it actually was. In 2002, Dave Aronberg was elected to state senate, and shortly afterward the case against Purdue was settled. In the edited interview transcript, Aronberg is quoted:
“Purdue also offered $2 million to the state to establish its first prescription drug monitoring program. I worked in the state senate to get the PDMP enacted into law. But some conservatives refused to go along. They thought it was Big Government. So Purdue’s $2 million went away, because the offer expired. We didn’t get the PDMP till 2011. By then the carnage was horrific.”
Furthermore, Opioid Watch notes that a Purdue spokesperson confirmed that the state failed to implement a PDMP by July 1, 2004, which was the expiration of the companies offer.
Dave Aronberg Goes to Congress
In December of 2017, Aronberg went in front of Congress to testify concerning fraud and abuse in the addiction treatment industry. In this meeting, they discussed various issues with shady facility operators in Florida and made suggestions on how the law could step in to change it and protect patients. The interview transcript quotes Aronberg:
“In recent years, we’ve had an influx of unscrupulous operators who enrich themselves by exploiting those in recovery. As a consequence, we’re attracting thousands of young people from throughout the country into fraudulent rehab centers. (We’re talking about some, not all. There are good rehab centers, too.)”
Again, Aronberg found himself at battle with shady marketing practices. While investigating the treatment industry, Aronberg’s office discovered illegal operations that not only manipulated insurance providers but put patients at extreme risk.
From patient brokering, where illicit actors would sell patients with insurance to the highest bidders, to illegal kickback schemes being run by sober homes to outpatient treatment programs. Chief Assistant State Attorney Alan Johnson added information about the exploitation of urine analysis costs, and even some programs that began billing insurers for allergy and DNA testing. Aronberg states:
“We have a doctor who billed $7 million in nine months for allergy tests.”
Needless to say, the task force and state officials had their work cut out for them.
The ACA, ADA, and FHA
When talking about the many scams being run by various illegitimate businesses, the conversation came back to insurance and how these cons run. Here Dave Aronberg talks about his beliefs on how the law should step in and help restructure the current system.
“Number one: Change the Affordable Care Act’s fee reimbursement model to an outcome-based reimbursement model. Where the good providers are rewarded and the bad ones are paid less. Right now, the opposite occurs, so the more times you fail, the more money you get. There’s an incentive for more services and for more relapse. That shouldn’t be.”
After talking about the issues with the ACA, he talked about the ADA and FHA.
“The second change we need is this: the Americans with Disabilities Act and Federal Housing Act have been misused and exploited by bad actors who own flophouses.”
He went on to say,
“Local governments are largely prohibited from overseeing the sober home industry. If they want to require mandatory inspections, certifications, and registrations, they’re likely prohibited under federal law.”
In essence, Aronberg believes the law should allow local governments to create their own guidelines for health, safety and the general welfare of the patients. None of these demands seems outlandish, and with reasonable regulation, the reputable and effective providers in this industry can continue to best serve the South Florida recovery community.
Aronberg also points out that the problem is not only in Florida. Recently, he went to Orange County, California to meet with officials dealing with the same situation. Next for Dave Aronberg is leading the national task force of 34 prosecutors in 30 states. Their goal is to produce a working paper for setting best practices for prosecutors all over America concerning these issues. The task force also intends to make suggestions for changes to federal and state laws.
What might be most surprising though is the mention of harm reduction strategies?
“It’s about prevention, drug treatment, and innovative strategies. I think it will be powerful because it’s going to be prosecutors talking about needle exchanges and disposal and safe injection sites. People assume prosecutors are going to be focusing only on mandatory minimums and longer sentences. That’s not what this is about. I think it’s going to surprise people.”
While needle exchanges and safe injection sites have been proposed in numerous states, it is not the most popular idea. San Francisco is actually on track to open the first safe injection site in America, with Philadelphia not far behind, and Seattle and Baltimore in the conversation as well.
With Aronberg and the task force working to make a difference, hopefully, we will see the right change soon. We hope it will make the recovery community stronger as a whole. Reputable and respected providers are also doing their part to refine their practices while implementing innovative and effective resources to ensure that those who with drug or alcohol addiction always have a safe place in Palm Beach County to get the help they need. With the opioid crisis ongoing, having real resources for opioid treatment is still an essential part of overcoming the problem.
Palm Healthcare Company is a leader in holistic addiction treatment with over 20 years of helping people from all over the country heal mind, body and spirit. Providing safe and comprehensive care should always be a focus in the effort to overcome the drug problem, and preservation of life should always be a priority. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
Recently Jeff Salinas, an Alumni from our Palm Partners facility contacted our Alumni department with some exciting news; on the road to recovery he hit the ground running, and soon will be competing in a triathlon, but it isn’t his first since he took off from the starting line he got while in treatment. Jeff shared with us an article written about his awesome new ambition on Florida Today, in which he was quoted saying
“Triathlon saved my life,”
Coming up Sunday, July 25th is the fifth annual Indialantic Boardwalk Triathlon. This is Jeff’s next giant leap on the road of transformation and recovery. The report shares that Jeff has become a regular to the local triathlons, as much as possible, while also competing in local foot races. According to Jeff, all this athletic action is more than just a sport; it has made a lasting imprint on his life, especially in recovery from alcoholism.
At 43 years old, this powerful example of passionate self-improvement has always been an athlete, even before turning his life around. However, when he spoke with journalists about his new competitive edge, he shared how the decision to clean up his act gave him a breathtaking second wind.
“In 2013, 2014 and 2015, I struggled really badly with alcoholism,”
“I finally battled those demons in 2015 … And then I trained for an Ironman triathlon. I made some life-changing moves, and to maintain them, I committed myself to the Ironman Florida Triathlon in Panama City.”
Jeff has been running a long time. Before, you may have said he was running from something. Today, however, it looks more like he’s running toward a better, brighter future.
Jeff has finished 7 marathons, and in 2013 he decided to try on a triathlon. Of course by his timeline, he was still actively drinking. Apparently he was able to put off drinking during triathlons and compete well enough.
It would appear that looking at the face value, one might categorize Jeff as a “functioning alcoholic”. He was working after moving with the company from San Diego. Jeff was providing for his wife Alpha and daughter Athena, not to mention caring for four dogs and staying active. Yet despite all the running, his drinking was catching up to him and gaining fast. When the question came in regards to if his drinking impacted his family, Jeff states in the interview:
“Bigtime. They’re the ones who got me into recovery. The most important thing is that you have to want it. You don’t go to make someone happy or because it is a good idea … You’ve got to do it for yourself; you have to make those life-changing decisions yourself. I had to ask myself, ‘Am I an addict or an athlete?’ ”
Jeff was put on a new track, with a new gym and new trainers who were ready to run a different kind of race with him; a race toward transformation.
Jeff Salinas found his way to Palm Partners, a Palm Healthcare facility that specializes in the treatment of people struggling with substance use disorder and dual diagnosis. In treatment Jeff found himself among recovering individuals of every economic and social background. While in treatment at Palm Partners Jeff experienced some of the most effective and innovative holistic methods, including personal trainers, exercise, good nutrition and yoga classes. Palm Partners and all Palm Healthcare facilities are designed to address every element of physical, emotional and mental recovery to help create lasting change. When asking Jeff about his experience with Palm Partners, and he wrote:
I remember during one of the classes in Palm Partners, we were to think of some kind of short term goal to have us look forward to in order to maintain our sobriety post Palm Partners. I always did want to participate in an Ironman Race Triathlon, which is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride followed by a 26.2 mile run. I thought, I can do this..
While in Palm Partners, this seed was planted. After coming home and maintaining my sobriety , the “Pink Cloud” eventually wore off, and I was starting to get depressed again and lose my momentum in my drive of wanting to stay sober. Then I remembered about the Ironman that I always wanted to do. So I did what I could to sign up for that race which was a year prior to the event. And from there, what’s in the FL Today article did follow suit.
I honestly do value the teachings and classes in PP. And it’s all relative, it doesn’t have to be triathlon or running, but it’s that internal driving force we had since our youth of purity, but somewhere along the timeline of growing up we lost it through addiction. Palm Partners helped me rekindle that fire inside me that almost went out. And, I’m forever greatful…
Becoming an Ironman
After finding himself back in the present, Jeff said:
“In Delray, I took everything in and really determined that I wanted to change… And so I committed to triathlon.”
Jeff credits the structure and strict training the sport demands to much of his attraction to it. The training requires a great deal of focus and dedication to practicing the three specific forms, leaving not much energy for the thought of drinking. In his interview with Florida Today, Jeff states:
“I committed to a seven-month training plan for the Ironman and fitted it around work and my personal schedule,”
“I tried to do (recovery) meetings, but that wasn’t what I needed. Instead, I’d show up for training and then go home and feel spent. It has been showing up for training that has helped me change.”
Last November in Panama Beach Jeff reached a milestone in his journey to a more fulfilled life. Jeff went on to say,
“I knew my mission was over once I crossed that line, when the commentator announced, ‘Jeff Salinas, you are an Ironman!’ ”
Alpha and Athena supported Jeff through every step of this race; from the decision to enter treatment and then to crossing the Ironman finish line.
Staying on the Path
Jeff has run in:
- Pineapple Man Triathlon
- Boardwalk Triathlon
Jeff has also qualified for and finished the Florida Triathlon, and is a member of the Donner Wealth Management Triathlon Team.
So what is next for the Palm Partners Alumni?
According to the report his new goal to finish the big race this Sunday in an hour, 10 minutes (give or take) to break his own record. After that- qualify for the Boston Marathon which he would like to do in November’s Space Coast Marathon.
One thing Jeff says during the interview that speaks volumes to his commitment to change is when talking about the race after-parties. Most of the events have food after, and beer is a common addition. Apparently the race community has plenty of it to go around. But in Jeff’s words,
“Well good for them. But not for me. Not for me.”
Jeff Salinas will be putting his passion to the pavement at the Indialantic Boardwalk Triathlon this Sunday, June 25th at 7 AM. The event takes place in Nance Park, 100 Miramar Ave., Indialantic. The event is for the benefit of Candlelighters of Brevard in Indian Harbour Beach.
We are happy to cheer for our Palm Partners Alumni, especially when they are sharing how passion, dedication and transformation make such amazing things possible. Jeff Salinas is a moving example of how willingness and action can change your life. On the road to recovery, Jeff is truly a trailblazer. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398
Recently I came across an article with a title essentially warning people not to send their family members to Florida for drug and alcohol treatment. The interviews argue that high rates of overdose should justify officials urging people in other states not to send their kids to treatment in the area. However, the article also acknowledges that “South Florida has long been a destination for world-class addiction treatment” and includes a quote from Palm Beach County League of Cities member Andy Amoroso stating:
“Stop sending your children and your loved ones to South Florida,”
I think there is a real problem with this kind of statement though…
It ignores the fact that most people looking for recovery come from states with much worse issues of overdose crisis than South Florida.
To be clear, Florida has seen a spike in drug related issues, but guess what… so has basically everywhere in America! We are in the midst of a drug overdose epidemic all across this nation.
For example, let’s talk about where I came from. In 2014 I wrote about how my home state of Ohio led the nation in opioid overdose deaths. Ohio now also has the highest rates of heroin related deaths.
1 out of every 9 heroin deaths… happens in Ohio!
Dayton, Ohio is number 1 in the country by many reports for drug overdoses. Today, Dayton is quickly becoming known as the heroin capitol of America.
I have lived in Florida for around 4 years after coming to Delray Beach to get sober. I am an active member of a vast recovery community in the Palm Beach County area, and I would never have gotten the chance to do all the amazing and life changing work I am privileged to do if no one had sent me to South Florida to get help. In all likelihood, I would be dead.
Crunching the Country’s Overdose Numbers
There is no denying that Florida is typically in the top 5 rankings when it comes to total overdose numbers. However, there should also be some context to really show the difference between how other states are being affected. To get a little perspective, I want to run down some numbers.
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation compiled data from every state in order to show some details on the opioid overdose crisis. In those numbers they discovered the top 3 states in opioid overdose deaths for 2014 were:
Ohio- 2,106 opioid overdoses- which was 7.4% of nationwide deaths
California- 2,024 deaths
New York- 1,739 deaths
Out of 10,584 nationwide heroin related deaths in 2014, 1,208 were in Ohio. That is 11.4% of the countries heroin deaths in a state with a population a fraction of the size of California’s, New York’s and Florida’s.
In 2015 the top 3 states for overall overdoses were:
In 2015 Ohio’s overdose death rates jumped again to 3,310. In 2016 those numbers are again expected to have skyrocketed to well over 4,000.
While we should acknowledge that the entire state of Florida had around 3,228 overall overdose deaths in 2015, Florida actually had less deaths per 100,000 people compared to 23 other states! These numbers include the top 5:
West Virginia- 41.5 per 100,000 people
New Hampshire- 34.3 per 100,000 people
Kentucky- 29.9 per 100,000 people
Ohio- 29.9 per 100,000 people
Rhode Island- 28.2 per 100,000 people
As well as:
So while Florida may be experiencing high rates of overdose, we need to see that dozens of states are seeing a much higher percent of their population be killed by drugs. Some states have less than half the population Florida does, but are still suffering with tragically high percentages of their population dying from overdose. Those people who want help deserve access to that same “world-class addiction treatment” that South Florida has to offer. For several years, countless families across the U.S. have suffered while the resources and the community in South Florida has helped to save thousands of men and women who needed a little hope and a second chance.
Prescription Drug Problem
In the Midwest, the problem with prescription drug abuse is an extremely distressing element of the opioid crisis. In 12 states, the number of opioid painkiller prescriptions actually exceeds the number of residents living in those states! This includes:
Out of the 1.3 million people living in this state, there were 13 million doses of opioids dispensed in a 3 month period!
Just in case you haven’t seen the news in the past few years, prescription drugs have been one of the largest contributing factors to the current opioid epidemic and the rise in heroin addiction.
The reality is professional and effective treatment programs in South Florida save the lives of countless people from all over the United States. The positive impact on the world is immeasurable. The reason so many people travel here for treatment is not just the fact that there are beaches and sun in Florida (Although they are amazing). They travel because so many of the states being hit the hardest by the opioid epidemic are states that have limited resources when it comes to comprehensive drug addiction treatment.
We aren’t traveling here to bring drugs Florida had never heard of before. We’re trying to escape the familiar and fatal atmosphere we were stuck in for so long. We take this drastic step in a desperate time because we want to believe the help is out there.
Some would still argue that a large number of treatment centers creates a problem with corruption within the industry itself. One can’t argue with some of the stories we read, but if that’s the case maybe instead of turning people away we should be educating people on the most important things to look for in a legitimate treatment program. We should encourage families to seek out qualified and established addiction specialists. Instead of insisting they shouldn’t trust the industry; we should be telling them to look for the accredited addiction specialists who have earned a respected reputation through their record in service and their certifications. Let’s celebrate the treatment providers who do make a difference instead of signing on for whole-sale condemnation.
At the very least, lets teach them to make sure a treatment facility in South Florida is approved by:
The Joint Commission is a United States-based nonprofit organization that accredits more than 21,000 health care organizations and programs in the U.S.
Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF)
The DCF is a state agency providing social services to children, adults, refugees, domestic violence victims and a number of other groups.
To learn more about how to find an accredited and effective treatment program, download our FREE e-book
“5 Critical Mistakes When Picking a Treatment Center and How to Avoid Them”
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No matter where we live we should never turn people away from our community for help. We should provide a platform for awareness. It is critical that addicts and their families know what makes effective treatment programs important. Florida should always be proud of the strength of its recovery community.
We are in this together
Accurate and detailed data for overdose death rates 2016 is not yet available. Yet it is estimated that almost 60,000 Americans died last year from drug overdose. Some experts say over 2 million Americans are suspected to be opioid dependent currently, and that overdose death rates in 2017 are only going to get worse.
Of course, it is understandable that people are concerned about the strain that addiction and overdose puts on their communities, but there is something we cannot, as Americans, forget… we are in this together. In the article I mentioned previously, one of the individuals quoted spoke of people struggling with addiction like we are all inconvenient intruders who have no place in their neighborhood. Thankfully, this is not the experience many of us live with.
I have to say it again… We are in this together.
We are all citizens of the same free country fighting the same fight. Even more important, we are all human beings. Every one of us is free to seek something that can save us. I often believe I would have never had this chance if I had not come to South Florida. I didn’t know what was possible… and thankfully nobody told me not to come looking for it. Nobody told me I wasn’t welcome.
This isn’t just about South Florida; any community with addiction treatment programs and a recovery community should know, we get it. We understand how it can seem a little scary when you think your neighborhood is changing. It’s easier to say “as long as it’s happening over there” until “over there” becomes everywhere.
At the height of the opioid epidemic in America, it is certainly not the time to hide the welcome mat and use fear to scare people away. It is time to make our voices louder and unify the recovery community to show more people that recovery is possible. Until more treatment opportunities are advocated for across the country, we will use every resources we have to preserve and protect the lives of those who are suffering. South Florida is still a great place for addiction treatment. If no one has told you yet, you are welcome here!
Palm Healthcare Company has been serving the South Florida community for 20 years, now with multiple specialized facilities and innovative holistic treatment programs designed to help create lasting change. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now. We want to help. You are not alone.
CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398