Washington bill targeting 'Sobriety for Sale' passes out of committee
OLYMPIA -- The State Senate’s Human Services committee approved a bill targeting Washington’s licensed drug and alcohol treatment centers, and the state agency that regulates them.
“They’re not doing their job. They’re not doing their job at all,” said State Sen. Randi Becker (R-Eatonville) who is the prime sponsor of SB 5705.
Sen. Becker crafted the bill after learning of KING 5’s “Sobriety for Sale” reports about state licensed treatment clinics. Some of them are in her Pierce County district.
The stories have identified five clinics where counselors are accused of taking cash bribes from addicted clients who have been ordered into treatment by Pierce County courts. The counselors allegedly fake treatment and attendance records and report to judges that the clients are in compliance with their court-ordered treatment.
“I have to say that I think it’s the most egregious thing that can happen in treatment,” Sen. Becker said.
KING 5’s investigation found that the DSHS’s Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery (DBHR) had received numerous complaints about many of the clinics.
But findings by DBHR inspectors were overturned by their superiors. DBHR also struck settlement agreements that were favorable to troublesome clinics – including reduced fines and punishment.
“These are things critical to the safety of our state. It’s one of our core responsibilities,” said Sen. Becker.
SB 5705 bars DBHR, which licenses and inspects the state’s 570 treatment clinics, from “improper and inappropriate reductions in the number of license violations found by field inspectors.”
The bill says such settlements permit “…the violating agency to stay open at the risk of public safety.”
The bill also requires DBHR to send an annual report to lawmakers detailing any settlements and explaining why they were reached.
DBHR did not send a representative to attend a public hearing on the bill Wednesday.
All of the counselors and clinics identified in KING 5’s series are under investigation by DBHR and the Washington Department of Health, which licenses individual counselors.