Unsupervised and unregulated: Families blame Florida rehabs for deaths of 2 Rock County men
JANESVILLE, Wis. — Mark and Joyce Stricklin said their son Seth died because of a lack of regulations.
Just days ago, the 23-year-old Janesville native decided to take one last dose of heroin before heading to detox.
He had spent the last 10 months living at a sober living home in West Palm Beach, Florida, a place intended to keep him clean and help him on his journey to sobriety.
Instead, it was the place where he spent his final day before overdosing.
It didn’t take long for the news of Stricklin’s overdose to travel 1,400 miles to his parents’ front door. “I was shocked,” said Mark Stricklin, Seth’s father. “It’s like your world has totally crumbled around you. To this day, that’s how we feel.”
The Stricklins were left with questions about the moments leading to their son’s death. Yet when they tried to contact Evernia Station, the sober living home he had been staying, they found no answers.
“We weren’t offered any closure, we weren’t offered any condolences, nothing,” said Mark Stricklin. “No calls back. No nothing.”
Through a family member, the Stricklin’s were introduced to Brooke McKearn, of Beloit.
In December, McKearn lost her son Nikolas Graves to a heroin overdose. He was living at a drug rehabilitation home just miles from where Stricklin would die months later.
McKearn said that’s when she began to realize how the sobriety homes operated.
“There’s no supervision there of any kind,” she said. “There are no counselors. No medical staff. No urine or blood testing whatsoever. You could pretty much do what you want.”
McKearn did her research. When she met the Stricklins, she shared with them what she had discovered.
Often referred to as the “Florida Shuffle”, dozens of homes in south Florida promote themselves as a way to get sober while enjoying time at the beach and in the sun. When addicts arrive, they find themselves in cramped rooms with no supervision. In Stricklin’s case, he was given incentives to recruit his friends to also live there.
His parents believe it was this lack of supervision that led to their son’s relapse and eventual overdose.
“We sent him (to Florida) as a whole person with promise,” said Mark Stricklin. “What we got back was a box with no explanations behind it.”
“The Florida shuffle is a bottomless moneymaker,” said McKearn. “Between the facilities, the lab companies and the doctors. The majority are just looking to make money off of your insurance.”
McKearn said five months after her son’s death, she learned another man overdosed in the same home. She’s tried to find answers from the West Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office, but said the occurrence is so frequent, they haven’t been able to do much.
Both families now have a message for anyone looking for a place to go to cure their addiction.
“If you’re thinking about sending your child to south Florida for help, please, please don’t,” said Mark Stricklin. “I don’t want any other parent to go through what my wife and I are going through.”
“Look for something that’s joint credited,” McKearn said. “Something that’s state certified.”
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