A bill proposing to prohibit an operator of rehabilitation treatment facilities from providing any form of false advertising or marketing services was unanimously passed by the California State Senate on Monday, 38-0.
Senate Bill 434, authored by Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel), would, if signed into law, prohibit an operator of a licensed residential treatment facility, mental health rehabilitation center, psychiatric health facility, social rehabilitation facility, or certified alcohol or other drug program from providing any form of false advertising or marketing services, including making a false or misleading statement about the entity’s products, goods, services, or geographical locations.
SB 434 would authorize the California Department of Health Care Services to investigate allegations of misconduct and impose sanctions.
The bill is also known as “Brandon’s Law,” named after Brandon Nelson, who passed away in 2018 at age 26 in an unlicensed rehab home. His parents, who signed Brandon up for care at the home, were assured that he would receive the proper care and be looked on by many people. But Brandon died as a result of false advertising on those promises.
The bill’s Senate success on Monday follows several failed attempts at similar bills by Senator Bates in previous years. In 2019, SB 589 passed in both the Assembly and the Senate but was vetoed by Governor Gavin Newsom over the inclusion of recovery residences and third parties making false claims. Last year’s SB 863 changed the language of the bill to remove the troublesome mentions that had gotten the previous version vetoed, but had to be put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic limiting the number of bills that session. As the bill was removed in November, it necessitated a new bill, SB 434.
Brandon’s Law moves up
Senator Bates wrote the series of bills largely due to investigations into the rehab industry finding that many seeking help had been lied to and taken advantage of rehab centers and programs making false claims, with many addicts taken in solely for insurance payments to the centers. The bill has also been more personal to Senator Bates, as she was a social worker who saw the effects of drug addiction first hand before becoming a Senator.
“The Senate has approved “Brandon’s Law” (SB 434) to help stop the exploitation of vulnerable people seeking addiction treatment,” Senator Bates Tweeted on Monday. “While there is still work to do for the bill to become law, I’m encouraged by the progress I’ve seen so far.”
The Senate has approved "Brandon's Law" (SB 434) to help stop the exploitation of vulnerable people seeking addiction treatment.
— Senator Pat Bates (@SenatorPatBates) May 17, 2021
In a later statement, she added “I’m pleased that my Senate colleagues approved my bill to help stop the exploitation of vulnerable people seeking addiction treatment. While there is still work to do for the bill to become law, I’m very encouraged by the progress I have seen so far to end deceptive marketing.”
Since being introduced in February, SB 434 has received no opposition, and has passed unanimously in every vote held on it.
“We’ve been wanting this one for several years now,” rehab regulation activist and former rehab center worker Alex Sellers explained to the Globe on Tuesday. “Brandon’s Law is super important, will save lives, help fight back against scammers trying to exploit people who are seeking help, and doesn’t really cost the taxpayers anything, as the Department of Health Care Services already has investigators in place. Plus it has fixed the issues Newsom had with it. There’s no reason not to want this from becoming law now.”
SB 434 is now headed to the Assembly, where it is expected to be heard in Assembly committees later this month.