False advertising is a problem in every industry, but it has harsher consequences in some. For example, false advertising for healthcare and medical services has a much more direct impact than something like bottled water. While both can cause problems, misleading healthcare advertisements can directly end someone’s life.
That’s why California has just passed “Brandon’s Law,” a new bill that prohibits false advertising by rehabilitation treatment centers and services. The law is a crucial step toward more honest and accurate health and addiction communication in the state. It gives consumers a way to fight back against facilities that use inaccurate advertising to bring in patients. Keep reading to learn the history of Brandon’s law, what the new bill covers, and how it may affect you.
The Story Behind Brandon’s Law
Brandon’s Law is named after Brandon Nelson, a young man who died in 2018 at just 26. Brandon was staying in an unlicensed rehabilitation facility when he died.
Brandon’s parents had signed him up for treatment at the facility in 2018. They chose it after being informed that he would have “a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapy sessions, a case manager, a house manager — an entire team that works with him throughout his 30 days,” according to Rose Nelson, Brandon’s mother.
However, the facility barely provided a fraction of what it claimed. Despite the facility’s advertising, it wasn’t licensed by the state. It was also facing a slew of problems, from legal to financial issues. As a result, it didn’t actually provide a team of healthcare professionals to help Brandon. According to police reports after the fact, he wasn’t even receiving his prescribed medications on time, which can significantly impact the efficacy of mental health drugs.
It’s very likely that the lack of care and medication directly led to Brandon’s subsequent suicide. He was only supposed to be at the facility for 30 days, but he committed suicide before he left. After discovering the actual conditions behind the facility’s façade of marketing, Brandon’s parents made it their quest to prevent the tragedy from ever happening to others.
Brandon’s Law: What It Covers
After three years of campaigning, the Nelsons successfully brought Senate Bill 434 before California legislators. The law as proposed covers several subjects.
First, it reaffirms current California law regarding licensing for rehab facilities. It’s illegal for any rehab facility to operate without an appropriate license.
Second, it prohibits any operator of a licensed drug abuse recovery or mental health rehabilitation clinic from “making a false or misleading statement about the entity’s products, goods, services, or geographical locations” or providing “false contact information that surreptitiously directs the reader to a business that does not have a contract with” a different facility.
In combination, it makes it illegal for rehab facilities to make false claims about their licensure, their capabilities, or whether they’re connected with other, better-known rehabilitation centers. The bill was unanimously passed through the Senate and signed into law in early October of 2021, and it will go into effect on January 1st, 2022.
How Fraudulent Rehab Facilities Can Harm Consumers
Brandon suffered some of the worse of the many harms that can occur at an unscrupulous rehabilitation center. He didn’t receive the treatment he was promised, and he didn’t receive his medications on time. Those are two of the most critical functions a treatment facility like that is supposed to accomplish.
Other ways a rehab facility can fail to live up to its advertising include:
- Inadequate or absent psychological support
- Insufficient or absent psychiatric support
- Medical malpractice
- Claiming or implying an association to a reputable facility
- Medication theft
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Unsafe living environments
- Lack of safety precautions
- Lack of supervision
- Lack of emergency services
Each of these issues can cause its own problems. The whole purpose of a rehabilitation facility is to support people as they get back on their feet. If a center isn’t providing that support, it’s simply an extremely expensive hotel. If abuse and neglect are also in play, then a rehab center may actually make its patients’ lives worse, not better.
What Brandon’s Law Means for California Consumers
The new law could significantly impact the health of any California resident who needs to go to a rehab center. Why? Because these facilities rarely require a referral for a patient to check in. Instead, people can choose to check themselves or family members into rehabilitation based on their personal research.
That’s exactly why the Nelsons checked Brandon into the center where he’d die. They trusted the facility’s advertising and the sales pitches of the representatives. However, they were lied to, and their son died because of it.
By penalizing facilities that try to mislead or outright lie to consumers, Senate Bill 434 will hopefully help end the unscrupulous tactics used by predatory facilities to bring in new patients. Once it goes into effect, rehabilitation centers will be held to higher standards in their marketing. As a result, California residents will be better able to choose a safe and medically responsible facility for their rehab needs.
Take Action Against Unsafe Facilities
Brandon’s Law makes it illegal for rehab facilities to perform false advertising. Still, it was already illegal for these facilities to operate without a license or cause you medical harm. You don’t need to wait until January if you or a loved one is suffering from a rehabilitation facility’s neglect. You can take action today and demand that these unlawful treatment centers are held accountable.
The first step is to discuss your situation with a qualified medical malpractice attorney. A true malpractice attorney has the experience and knowledge to help you make your case. Start by scheduling your confidential consultation today and learn what you can do to fight back against the rehabilitation facilities that have harmed you.