NC lawmakers seek to outlaw unethical addiction treatment practices

State Senate lawmakers are advancing a bill to make addiction treatment patient brokering a felony, comparing the kickback scheme to human trafficking.

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Laura Leslie
, WRAL Capitol Bureau hief
RALEIGH, N.C. — Senate lawmakers are advancing a bill to make addiction treatment patient brokering a felony.

Sen. Jim Burgin, R-Harnett, the sponsor of Senate Bill 408, called patient brokering "an insidious, corrupt, deadly practice" that preys on people trying to recover from opioid or other substance addictions.

"Patient brokers profit by recruiting individuals suffering from a substance use disorder and luring them to treatment facilities and sober living homes with the promise of scholarships for treatment, free housing or other incentives," Burgin said. "The patient brokers themselves receive generous financial kickbacks from facilities. The incentive is not to find an evidence-based treatment option that meets the needs of the individual but instead to simply fill beds with heads."

"Basically, this is trafficking," he added.

Burgin described complex brokering schemes that involve deceptive marketing, kickbacks, overbilling for urine testing, low-quality treatment or no treatment at all in some facilities.

"The most concerning allegation is that patient brokers provide drugs to an individual so they can relapse," he said. "This keeps the individual in treatment and allows those involved in that scheme to restart the billing cycle and continue racking up bills."

"I've had numerous conversations with DAs from other states and working with the Attorney General's Office on this, and some of the stories are horrendous when you hear them," he added.

Burgin said the bill is still being worked on by stakeholders, but he urged the committee to support it so that it can meet a May 13 deadline for policy-related bills to pass one chamber in the General Assembly. It could then undergo more work in the House, he said..

No one spoke against the bill. It passed Senate Judiciary committee on a unanimous vote and is likely to be on the Senate floor as soon as Thursday.


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