Closer look at Florida’s sober homes: Inside their fatal attraction with Wisconsin’s addicts

Closer look at Florida’s sober homes: Inside their fatal attraction with Wisconsin’s addicts
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The “sober living” facilities where two Rock County men died are not offering an explanation.

Seth Stricklin, of Janesville, overdosed just days ago at Evernia Station sober living home in West Palm Beach. His parents, Mark and Joyce, said they’ve been kept in the dark about the moments surrounding his death.

“We weren’t offered any closure, we weren’t offered any condolences, nothing. No calls back. No nothing,” said Mark Stricklin.

Months prior and just miles away in a nearby South Florida community, Nik Graves, of Beloit, ingested a fatal dose of heroin while in the bedroom of a one-story house called Sober Solutions.

His mom, Brooke McKearn, has been leading her own investigation into his death, which she said she started doing when she was denied any explanation surrounding his passing.

McKearn said she found the home her son was living in offered no supervision, no stability and no support.

“There were no counselors, no medical staff, no urine or blood testing whatsoever,” McKearn said. “You could pretty much do what you want.”

Following her son’s death, McKearn said she received bills in the mail demanding thousands of dollars for basic services provided to her son.

For former addicts who have made it through recovery, the scam known as the Florida shuffle is nothing new.

“There are a number of clients I have worked with that have shared with me their experiences about patient brokering when they were sent to treatment out of state,” said Skye Boughman, who works in drug poisoning prevention.

Boughman said prior to the passing of the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies would regularly cap coverage levels for those struggling with addiction.

“It put families in horrible positions where many of them took out second mortgages on their homes in order to have a chance to save their child’s lives,” she said.

After the ACA passed, however, she said sober homes began to appear in states like Florida, California and Arizona. Boughman said these homes exist not to heal people of their addictions, but to make money.

“Some of the places that popped up were very unscrupulous and really took advantage of people and that’s when we start to see patient brokering,” she said.

Evernia Station would not answer News 3 Now’s request for comment.

Sober Solutions did not answer multiple phone calls.

“It’s heartbreaking to see people take my life’s work,” said Boughman. “To twist that into taking advantage of my community and often causing their death, I can’t even fully explain how that feels.”

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