How some Southern California drug rehab centers exploit addictionTimmy Solomon lights a glass pipe of crystal meth in the bathroom of his sober living home in San Clemente. He closes the window and turns the shower to steaming hot to disguise the smell. He said he got the meth a few days earlier from another addict at their outpatient treatment center in San Juan Capistrano. Less than an hour later his housemates call the house manager to report him being high. A few hours later he’s kicked out and sent to Mission Hospital Laguna Beach where he spends the night.(Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)
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PUBLISHED: May 21, 2017 at 5:55 am | UPDATED: November 5, 2018 at 2:37 pm
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Part 1 | Some rehabs use loopholes, Obamacare to exploit addicts
Part 2 | Many recovery centers fail to deliver
Part 3 | Recovery homes can make tough neighbors
More | A note from the editor and other findings
Timmy Solomon’s mood swings between euphoria and sadness after shooting heroin and crystal meth, a concoction aptly named “goofball.” One minute he’s dancing: “I’m the luckiest person in the world!” The next minute he’s crying because his ex-wife won’t allow him to see his 1 1/2-year-old daughter when he’s using. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Part 1: Some rehabs use loopholes, Obamacare to exploit addicts
As they push their grocery carts and clutch their coffees, the shoppers scurrying through the Ocean View Plaza parking lot pay little attention to Timmy Solomon.Timmy hunts for cans in the garbage and turns them in for cash at the recycling station to buy drugs. “I never pictured this as my life, ever dude.” he says. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)
For many, he’s easy to ignore.
His hair is dirty and matted. His voice is raspy. And on this sunny Tuesday, Solomon is dragging around a bag full of cans and bottles that he hopes to sell to the RePlanet Recycling station behind the Ralph’s in San Clemente.
He wants to raise $20 so he can get high one last time before he goes into rehab.
As a kid, Solomon was taught not to steal or use drugs. But today, at 28, he’s grown up to become a shoplifter and a junkie, addicted to heroin and meth and benzodiazepines, one of the hardest drugs to kick.
Those aren’t the only contradictions in Solomon’s life.
As broke as he is, Solomon is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Chronic drug users like Solomon are commodities, exploited by a growing world of drug and alcohol rehab operators who put profit ahead of patient care. Everything from the opioid epidemic and Obamacare to prison realignment and legal loopholes has created conditions in which unethical operators can flourish, using addicts to bilk insurance companies and the public out of hundreds of millions of dollars.
Though many legitimate centers remain, critics and long-time insiders say a darker version of the industry is emerging, built around an illicit world of patient recruiters, fraud-driven clinics and drug-testing mills.
Southern California, where the implementation of Obamacare makes it easy for recent arrivals to sign on for insurance, is on the front line of the conflict.