Senators push for investigation into unpaid labor in rehab centers

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KBOO
Air date: 
Mon, 11/23/2020 - 5:30pm to 5:45pm
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Senators Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin formally requested an investigation from the Government Accountability Office into federally funded rehab programs that use unpaid labor from people seeking addiction treatment. 
Reporting done by Reveal showed that at least 300 programs across the U.S. require patients to do "work therapy" for little to no pay, including three facilities in Oregon.
Often, the work that patients had to do was overly strenuous or dangerous without proper training. 
These programs are largely unregulated and unlicensed, but in many cases, patients don’t have the ability to advocate for themselves, be it about the hazardous nature of their work or their lack of pay.
Many of those who end up in this “shadow workforce," as the senators' letter calls them, do so on a court order. If they don’t complete the program, they could end up in jail. 
Senators Warren and Baldwin wrote in their letter to the Accountability office,“Individuals struggling with substance use disorder who attend rehabilitation programs should never be subjected to predatory conditions that threaten their recovery and violate their rights under the law.”  
KBOO's Althea Billings spoke with Laura Starecheski, a Senior Editor at Reveal, from The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, about their investigation into rehab centers and unpaid labor. 

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*This piece originally aired in July 2020

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