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This week, President Donald Trump signed into law H.R. 6, the Support Patients and Communities Act, a comprehensive bill to overhaul and strengthen policies to help combat the opioid epidemic and improve treatment options for patients suffering from addiction and abuse. Included in the legislation are provisions from House Resolution 6902, the Eliminating Kickbacks in Recovery Act, introduced by Representative Steve Knight (CA-25) in September and which originated in the Recovery Home Certification Act.

The Eliminating Kickbacks in Recovery Act will create criminal penalties for individuals who give or take payments for referrals, also known as “patient brokering,” to treatment facilities or sober homes. By offering the opportunity to profit from referrals, these illicit kickbacks create a perverse incentive for bad actors to keep individuals seeking recovery from addiction trapped in an endless churn of addiction and treatment. Patient  brokering is usually tied to fraudulent treatment and housing. 

“For many people who suffer from addiction, the road to recovery is a long and difficult one.” Knight said. “These individuals need all the support they can get in order to get their lives back on track, and it was incredibly disturbing to me when I heard reports of individuals exploiting patients for personal profit. This is morally reprehensible, and it’s time that our laws reflect that. By creating penalties for individuals who abuse recovery home resources for their own gain, we will help ensure that patients who do seek help can be confident that their health and well-being will be the first priority of care givers.”

The resolution includes a broad swath of other measures to turn the tide against the opioid epidemic, including the expansion of access to substance use disorder services in Medicaid, the establishment of a student loan forgiveness program for medical practitioners who specialize in addiction treatment, and the creation of a new type of comprehensive opioid recovery centers for integrated recovery support services. Another effort led by Knight, the establishment of federal standards to guide the state certification of recovery housing and tools to identify fraudulent housing entities, was also included in the legislation.