1 year after sober living homes scandal, activists say facilities still prey on tribal members

By Chris Clements/KSJD
Published: Monday, November 20, 2023 - 9:39am

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Stolen People, Stolen Benefits outreach
Reva Stewart/Stolen People, Stolen Benefits
Advocate Reva Stewart (right) and another volunteer doing outreach in Phoenix, Arizona.

It’s been several months since authorities announced an effort to shut down fraudulent sober living homes in Phoenix that have been preying on Native Americans.

But activists say the facilities are still operating — and continuing to decimate lives.

Earlier this year, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs announced a crackdown on fraudulent treatment facilities.

She said dozens of them had defrauded the state Medicaid agency’s American Indian Health Program out of hundreds of millions of dollars.

These fake sober homes have sent recruiters across the West to target vulnerable Native people. Advocates like Reva Stewart say they’re seeing more unhoused people in Phoenix who need help returning to their tribal communities.

Stewart says a Native activist in her group recently lost a friend to an overdose in what she suspects was a fraudulent group home.

“No one's speaking up about it,” Stewart said. “So she's just as angry as, you know, she should be because these facilities just took another life.”

Almost one year after the first news stories on these sober homes broke, Stewart says they’re still finding ways to operate.

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