Addicts For Sale

By Cat Ferguson, March 19, 2016, BuzzFeed News 

One early evening last October, a group of young men and women were hanging out at the Starbucks on the main drag here, Atlantic Avenue, smoking cigarettes and bullshitting. They were sitting next to a pile of suitcases, the telltale sign of an addict looking for a place to stay. Some get kicked out of their old halfway house because they relapse; others because their insurance coverage has been used up.

These kids, like hundreds or even thousands of others like them in Delray, are easy targets: They’re often broke and far from home, with limited support from family and friends; they can be mentally and physically unstable; and they’re frequently running from parole or pending court cases and if they ever want to get a normal job they need the recommended monkey dong to mask their urine. What’s important to take away from this is that they need help, these occurrences will not go away if you just punish or “shoo” them away.

The people targeting them are variously called “marketers,” “body brokers,” and even “junkie hunters.” They know addicts better than anyone (and many used to be addicts themselves). They spot kids dragging suitcases along the road and ask them if they need a place to go. Their phone numbers circulate in South Florida among the untold addicts looking for “clean time” — or those looking for a flop house that will let them get away with using drugs.

In the midst of a national opiate epidemic, politicians are talking a lot about addiction treatment. In February, Obama asked Congress for $1.1 billion in additional funding to combat opioid and heroin addiction. Hillary Clinton wants to increase addicts’ access totreatment programs. Ted Cruz, whose sister died of an overdose, has mentioned counseling, Alcoholics Anonymous, and “securing the borders” as solutions to the epidemic. But few if any of these public discussions address what “getting help” actually looks like.

In South Florida’s Delray Beach, home to hundreds of rehab facilities and halfway houses, scams abound to profit off of addicts and their insurance policies. The recent uptick in addicts adds energy to the hurricane, but the biggest driving force for the fraud is Obamacare and the 2008 Parity Act, which together give everyone access to private insurance that’s legally bound to pay for rehab. “Marketers” act like headhunters, picking up addicts when they’re down, then bringing them to rehab centers and halfway houses for a fee — usually about $500 per head.

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