Health & Fitness

How recovering drug addicts are getting bought and sold by corrupt treatment centers

Life of Purpose Founder Andrew Burki has been working with the Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force to strengthen oversight in the drug recovery industry and rein in corruption.
Life of Purpose Founder Andrew Burki has been working with the Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force to strengthen oversight in the drug recovery industry and rein in corruption. WLRN

Five years ago, Dillon Katz stepped into a house in West Palm Beach.

“I walked in and the guy was sitting at this desk — no shirt on, sweating,” Dillon said.

The man asked Dillon for a smoke.

“So I gave him a couple cigarettes,” Dillon said. “He went around the house and grabbed a mattress from underneath the house — covered in dirt and leaves and bugs. He dragged it upstairs and threw it on the floor and told me, ‘Welcome home.’ ”

The house was a “sober home” — a kind of halfway house intended to integrate recovering drug and alcohol users back into community life and keep them on the right path.

Some sober home operators are dedicated to helping residents succeed in recovery. But others see addicts as a payday. A corrupt drug treatment center might pay $500 a week in kickbacks to sober home operators who steer them clients with health insurance — somebody like Dillon Katz.

Aronberg
Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg heads the county’s Sober Home Task Force. It the past 10 months, the task force has arrested and charged 28 operators of addiction treatment centers and sober homes with ‘patient brokering.’ Peter Haden WLRN

The process is known as “body brokering.”

Read more: In South Florida’s addiction treatment industry, recovering drug users can be bought and sold

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