The Reflections treatment center looked like a good place for Michelle Holley’s youngest daughter to kick heroin. Instead, like in dozens of other Florida substance abuse treatment facilities, the owner was more interested in defrauding insurance companies by keeping addicts hooked, her family tells the Associated Press. The center refused to give 19-year-old Jaime Holley her prescription medicine when she left, forcing her to use illegal drugs to avoid acute withdrawal symptoms, her mother said. She died of a heroin overdose last November. “Right to my face they lied to me, and I believed them.”
Rather than working to get people well, a growing number of unscrupulous industry players are focusing on getting addicts to relapse so that insurance dollars keep rolling in, say law enforcement officials, treatment experts and addicts in recovery. “It’s terrible right now. I don’t know of any business that wants to kill its customers, but this one does,” said Timothy Schnellenberger, who has worked for years in running addiction recovery centers in Florida. “It really breaks my heart. Kids are dying left and right.” Reflections and Journey — both centers owned by Kenneth Chatman — are shuttered now, and Chatman is serving a 27-year federal prison sentence after pleading guilty to health care fraud and money laundering. As drug addiction destroys families across America, “there’s a need for a positive, vibrant recovery network to help people get off of opioids,” said State Attorney Dave Aronberg in Palm Beach County. “You can’t just arrest your way out of this problem.” Lately, South Florida has become the focal point of rampant insurance fraud that relies on a lethal cycle of intentional failure, authorities say.