Patient brokering, a practice that has cost many people seeking recovery from addiction to lose their lives to overdose, has been officially outlawed in the state of Illinois after backlash from the addiction recovery advocates.

What is Patient Brokering?

Patient brokering is a term that’s used loosely to describe a practice that’s become commonplace across the US. Addicted young people, typically still on their parents’ insurance, are usually desperate to get help for their disease. A patient broker, found via advertising in multiple places on the Internet, or using word-of-mouth, will sucker this hopeful client into a web of deceit.

Usually, the broker will get a kickback of thousands of dollars for pointing an addicted person to a specific sober home or treatment program, promising that the client will be cut free from the struggle of addiction.

The big deceit? The addicted person is usually referred to an inadequately staffed treatment center or other program, where there is no support or instruction to prevent them from using again. In some cases, the addicted clientele are even promised free money, cigarettes, and other accommodations. When they relapse, however, they are stuck in an unfamiliar state, wrapped up in the cycle of addiction again.

Patient Brokering & the Cycle of Addiction

Relapses actually benefit the patient-brokering industry. More often than not, a relapse means a repeat customer. Alienated from family in another state, and unable to pay their way home, clients suckered in by brokering are often bounced in and out of treatment programs, all at their insurance company’s expense.

In some cases, patient brokering firms will even tell the addicted person’s family that insurance has agreed to pay, and sticks the addicted person’s family with the bill when the claims are denied.

In the meantime, the person with a substance use disorder is stuck without a treatment program that works. Many sober homes in unregulated states have seen this result in overdoses on-site. Some of those overdoses have resulted in death.

That’s why laws criminalizing patient brokering are being pushed across the US.

“Patient brokers are predators, preying on Illinois residents struggling with opioid addiction,” said Illinois Association for Behavioral Health C.E.O. Sara Howe about the new laws. “With Governor Rauner’s signature on this legislation, the state will be able to help shutter these deceptive marketers, dry up ‘finder fees’ for referring patients as well as assure that quality, reputable treatment is the default choice for individuals seeking to overcome their opioid addiction.”