Editorial: Put an end to Arizona’s ‘patient brokers’

People who are trying to turn their lives around need the support of the community, the encouragement of their neighbors, and a lot of personal dedication.

What they don’t need are characters who see them as nothing more than a means to make easy money.

Rep. Noel Campbell (R-Prescott) has proposed a bill in the Arizona Legislature that would place limits on referral fees that sober living facilities pay to “patient brokers.”

“This is kind of a shady industry,” Campbell said. “They have people, brokers or younger kids go out and find other kids that are in distress with drug addiction problems and they pay them, sometimes up to $5,000 to have this kid brought to them. The kid who’s brought to them has to have insurance and money.

It’s just a way to get at the money on the insurance.”

Campbell’s proposal is modeled after laws that have been passed in other states, including Florida. It’s very important to Prescott because these kickback incentives are legal in Arizona, which invites these body brokers into our community.

The addiction treatment industry is a $35 billion business in the United States.

Not all treatment facilities are shady as many truly want to help their clients turn their lives around and end addiction.

But with that much money at stake, people with low ethical hurdles are tempted to swoop in and get their share.

Interventionist Heather Hayes said in a 3TV/CBS5 report on the topic that some of what goes on is the equivalent to human trafficking.

“Families who may only have one shot may lose a child because they don’t end up in the right type of treatment,” Hayes said.

It’s no secret there are hundreds of sober living facilities in Prescott. Campbell’s bill would make referrals of more than $1,000 a Class 3 felony, with a presumptive prison term of 3 1/2 years for a first-time offense — and a possible 8 years and 9 months for aggravated violations.

Even a referral of less than $100 would remain a Class 6 felony and carry a presumptive one-year behind bars.

That should be an effective deterrent to the shady operators in this industry without impacting the homes and clinics that are dedicated to helping others.

Campbell’s bill should become law so we can stop shady characters from preying on people who are struggling to turn their lives around.