A bill that would require drug and alcohol rehabilitation homes to report residents' deaths passed the California's Assembly Health Committee last week.
Assembly Bill 2374, introduced by Assemblyman Allan Mansoor, (R-Costa Mesa), would order the residential treatment centers to call in any resident's death within one working day and follow up with details in a written report to the state Department of Health Care Services.
The reports would be required regardless of the cause of death or whether the death occurred at the rehabilitation home.
Mansoor's bill acts on a recommendation in a 2012 state report blasting California's oversight of rehabilitation centers.
The California Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes investigation, which was called "Rogue Rehabs," said the state had been lax in regulating problem providers and investigating deaths at residential facilities.
The report highlighted the story of a 20-year-old man who died while allegedly in the care of Morningside Recovery, which ran rehabilitation homes in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach.
Four months later, an investigation into the death found that Morningside was flouting state law by claiming to offer medical treatment, which it wasn't licensed to provide at the location, according to the report.
Morningside has denied any culpability.
Though the bill would make reporting the deaths state law, this is already being done in practice.
A Department of Health Care Services spokeswoman said the agency's own regulations already require rehabilitation providers to report deaths within a day and follow up with a written report.
"It's certainly been the policy," spokeswoman Carol Sloan said.
But the Office of Oversight and Outcomes recommended passing legislation to make sure that practice continues.
Putting the reporting requirement into the state's health and safety code gives it teeth instead of letting Health Care Services decide how much it wants to enforce its own regulation, said Mansoor's capital director, Calvin Rusch.
"This would be really hard-hitting if they're not enforcing the law," Rusch said.
The law would apply only to drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs licensed through the Department of Health Care Services. For example, sober-living homes that host groups of recovering addicts aren't required to register with the DHCS if they don't offer treatment.
The Assembly Appropriations Committee is scheduled to consider Mansoor's bill in May.