A House of Representatives committee has approved a bill targeting troubled drug and alcohol treatment clinics in Washington state.

The passage of SB 5705 by the House Health Care and Wellness Committee, which has already been approved by the Senate, means the bill is a big step closer to Governor Inslee’s desk.

The bill seeks to put a lid on controversial settlements reached by the Department of Social and Health Services Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery (DBHR).

An investigation by KING 5 found that DBHR and the Washington Attorney General’s Office struck settlements and dropped administrative charges and fines, with state licensed treatment clinics and counselors who had long histories of complaints and violations.

The “Sobriety for Sale” investigations revealed that DBHR had evidence that counselors and clinics were accepting bribes from criminal defendants that the courts had ordered into treatment as part of their sentence. The investigations revealed that counselors falsely reported to judges that the clients were in compliance with their treatment.

In many cases, DBHR dropped or settled its investigations when clinic owners threatened legal action.

SB 5705 says DBHR “should not reduce the number of license violations…to avoid liability in a manner that permits the violating agency to stay open at the risk of public safety.”

DBHR and the Washington Department of Health have numerous investigations open on the clinics and counselors identified in the story.

One clinic owner, Clarence Farmer, has been administratively charged with taking a bribe. He shut down his controversial Tacoma treatment clinic.

Farmer now operates “A Fresh Beginning” in Spanaway. He denies any wrongdoing and his fighting the charges filed by the state.