Joshua S. Horton is a personal injury attorney with offices in Boca Raton, Florida and Washington D.C. He specializes in the fields of substance use disorder law and legal issues related to recovery and rehabilitation centers. His practice of law philosophy begins with the point of view to ensure substance users receive help and rehabilitation rather than punishment.
This interview was conducted via email.
In your recent article Pandemic Predators and Collateral Consequences in the Spring 2002 issue of the CTLA magazine, Forum, you write of the need to re-think the link between substance abuse law and the way overdose patients are treated by the medical community. What types of legal and/or legislative changes do you advocate or recommend on the state and federal levels?
Our firm has always advocated for the decriminalization of laws with punitive measures for those affected by SUD. By penalizing and criminalizing sufferers, we produce societal stigma which drives the individual further into their mental health crisis. This stigma extends to the emergency rooms and medical professionals who treat the sufferer with a lack of empathy, dignity, and compassion. Individuals are often, “treated and streeted” with extreme physical cravings, which often leads to death because of the influx of fentanyl flooding our illicit drug supplies from Mexico and China. We need to start addressing this fentanyl pandemic as international terrorism. It is killing a generation of Americans at a faster rate than gunshots and car accidents combined.
What was your motivation for the article? What inspired you?
While everyone was so concerned about Covid-19, the real effects on mental health and SUD as a result of Covid 19 were being ignored. I witnessed and researched many such cases, and had my own struggles during the pandemic due to the isolation and lack of resources provided to vulnerable individuals suffering from SUD. Our firm always tries to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to SUD matters and we saw this coming a mile away.
What attorneys inspire you today in the field of medical malpractice? Do you have any mentors?
I am always inspired by any attorney who has passion for their work. This is not limited to medical malpractice. Doug Rochen in Los Angeles has been a wealth of knowledge for me and co-Chairs our Litigation Group with the American Association for Justice on these issues. I also work with a Doctor/Lawyer at the Alvarez Law Firm in Miami who has taught me much in the medical malpractice arena. His name is Herb Borrotto. These men also care deeply about justice and serving those who could not otherwise be heard. It is a pleasure to call them friends and mentors. Finally, I work with other young lawyers who are hungry to learn and serve here in Florida and elsewhere. A few of these individuals include Brendan Green in South Carolina, Macy Hanson in Mississippi, and Joe Grant here in Palm Beach County.
Please explain the nefarious presence of patient brokers in the recovery industry. What can the law do to protect families and patients?
These individuals prey on sufferers and their families at their weakest. Not only is this cowardly and deadly, it is extremely lucrative because of the current relaxed standards in the treatment industry. Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg has led the charge against these predators by establishing a Sober Home Task Force which criminally punishes these predators. However, most states at this time have no standards at this time, so it is a little bit like the Wild West of Law and Policy in most of the country. If you know of someone who has suffered as a victim from one of these practices, please contact our office as soon as possible so we can explain what possible options you may have.
Would you say the issue of Naloxone use as a treatment being used with little consistency is a sign of medical hypocrisy? What can the legal and medical communities do to fix this?
I’m not sure it is medical hypocrisy, however, law enforcement officials and first responders who refuse to carry Narcan as the life saving tool that it is should be looked at as cruel and grossly negligent.
What can families and patients do to prevent sexual assaults in recovery centers? Is there a legal or medical channel for more government regulatory oversight at the state or County levels?
Do research on the facility before you send your loved one there or enter a program yourself. Check for training and certifications on ALL staff and owners. Be aware of your surroundings, if you feel uncomfortable, notify your therapist and possibly law enforcement. If you have been a victim, contact our office and we can get you plugged into whatever remedies may be available.
How has the Covid 19 pandemic exacerbated the overdose epidemic and treatment of overdoses?
By preventing access to recovery resources, isolation increases mental health problems. Abuse and domestic violence have greatly increased, which can contribute to substance use and/or suicide. We have seen these numbers explode over the last several years, and the effects of this pandemic will be with us for years to come due to the trauma that was incurred during Covid.
What is the future of Substance abuse law in the state of Florida?
I believe we have the right leaders in this state to change policy at the national level. Both criminally, civilly, and legislatively. Attorneys protecting vulnerable individuals have the duty to change policy through whatever channels they have at their disposal. Our firm hopes to be among these leaders.