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Bill aims to crack down on sham sober living facilities in Arizona

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(The Center Square) – A bill aiming to crackdown on unlicensed sober living facilities passed out of the Arizona State Senate unanimously, but could face hurdles as it moves forward.

State officials say an increasingly common scam occuring in Arizona involves facilities that brand themselves as sober living facilities but do not offer people any actual help. Many Native Americans in Arizona have been targeted by the homes, and those who go into these homes sometimes end up losing contact with loved ones while there, according to lawmakers.

Sen. Theresa Hatathlie, D-Tuba City, said that Senate Bill 1655 is comprehensive and intended to make sure that those who are running the unlicensed homes are held accountable. In addition, the bill proposes increased communication between the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the Attorney General’s office, the Arizona Department of Health Services and the Arizona Corporation Commission to make sure that people do not get away with the scam repeatedly, according to the Senate engrossed version of the bill.

“When are we going to stand up and say no? We are not going to allow any more criminals,” Hatathlie said on the Senate floor on Thursday.

Most notably, bill proposes to make it a class 6 felony for operating without a “residential care institution” without a license and a $5,000-$10,000 “daily civil penalty” for doing so.

“This is the type of crime we need to put a stop to,” she continued.

An estimate suggests that the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System had $2 billion in taxpayer dollars used for these homes, according to Fox 10 Phoenix.

On Thursday, the bill is scheduled to be discussed in the House Committee on Health and Human Services. Since there is expected to be opposition, Hathalie and Senate President Warren Petersen said they plan to testify in favor of the bill.

“Im hearing that the Governor is working with grifters to kill Senator Hatathlie’s SB 1655 which stops fraud in AZ. We passed it out of the Senate unanimously. It needs to be signed in to law. Please side with the taxpayers, governor,” Petersen tweeted on Thursday.

The Center Square reached out for the governor’s office for comment but did not get a response in time for publication.

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