Rehab Industry Legal Case Settled: Suncoast Rehab Fights Back Against Treatment Center Discrimination and Wins

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A recent case involving Suncoast Rehab and Hernando County involved wrongful denial of the center’s expansion plans, with a basis of discrimination. The case has set a precedent for the entire rehab industry, with many organizations who have been waiting in the balance to discover the recent ruling of the Appellate court, which proved the Fair Housing Act (FHA) can protect American citizens and businesses if they fight for their civil liberties.

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It’s heartening to know and be able contribute to other organizations like Suncoast that not only care about protecting the civil liberties of people who are vulnerable...

Recovering addicts are considered handicapped or disabled persons within the meaning of the Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws – a fact that led Suncoast Rehabilitation Center to sue and acquire judgement against intentional discrimination of their facility. Suncoast Rehab, a rehab facility which provides high-quality drug recovery programs to its patients, recently won a five-year court case involving the facility’s expansion plans. The case was originally filed in 2009, when Suncoast Rehab attempted to increase the number of patient beds from 22 to 54 shortly after opening. Hernando County denied the request on the basis of concern over Suncoast’s clientele.

After Suncoast challenged this denial in court, the court ultimately decided in its favor, ruling that the county’s decision demonstrated discrimination against Suncoast, awarding Suncoast $74,000 in damages. However, the initial award was based on an incorrect jury instruction that Suncoast could have gone outside of their community and rented offsite housing or could have moved in order to expand.

Suncoast then appealed to the 11th Circuit Court due to their clients being protected under the Fair Housing Act. It was determined that the District Court’s mitigation instruction to the jury was contrary to both the language and goals of the FHA. That is because the FHA guarantees protected individuals the right to live in the dwellings of their choice, and not simply an opportunity to live “somewhere” in the city. The July 2014 Appellate court ruling stated that Suncoast did not have to go outside of their business model to provide housing for their clientele in order for them to recover, citing the Fair Housing Act. As a result, Hernando County settled with Suncoast Rehab for 1.97 million.

Tammy Strickling, Executive Director of Suncoast, predicts that the case will have significant impact in the rehab industry due to it winning under the FHA.

A person or other entity that is not a party to a particular lawsuit but nevertheless has a strong interest in it may be allowed to file amicus curiae brief, a statement of particular views on the subject matter of the lawsuit. The Washington Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and Oxford House, Inc. were among the interested parties of the Suncoast Rehab case that filed such a brief. (1)

The Washington Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs is a non-profit civil rights organization that works to promote civil rights and address discrimination – a primary purpose of the organization is to combat, protest and remediate discriminatory housing practices. Oxford House is a non-profit organization whose primary purpose is to provide recovery programs for recovering drug and alcohol users. It is a nationally-recognized advocate for people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction.

Suncoast Rehab was represented by the 20-year law firm Smolker, Bartlett, Schlosser, Loeb & Hinds.

“It’s heartening to know and be able contribute to other organizations like Suncoast that not only care about protecting the civil liberties of people who are vulnerable, but who are willing to also take a stand and prevent discrimination of those suffering from addiction who desperately need our help,” states Strickling.

Strickling went on to say that the face of addiction has changed – it impacts everyone of every socio-economic level. Executives, housewives, and working men and women have become unwittingly addicted to prescription medications and other illicit drugs. “These people are valuable contributing members of society, and they deserve help,” she said.

Suncoast officials say they will continue to stand their ground on the subject of advocating for the federal rights of its patients, anti-discrimination and being able to seek the most comfortable and therapeutic environments for those who need care.

About Suncoast Rehab Center:

Located in Spring Hill, Florida, with a 76% success rate, Suncoast Rehab Center provides long-term residential treatment, intensive sauna detoxification, life skills and cognitive therapy and counseling. Suncoast is licensed by the Florida Department of Children and Families, and was recently awarded a 100% inspection score for the fourth year in a row. Suncoast has a mission to educate youth and adults about drugs and the dangers of drugs, with the aim of preventing future drug use and abuse. Suncoast handles the physical deficiencies, weakness and problems created through drug use, without the use of additional drugs. Clients are helped to uncover the issues that led to their drug use through counseling, therapy and life skills that put the client back in control of his/her life and future. Suncoast’s purpose in drug rehabilitation is to heal the whole person and give the person tools and education to remain drug–free. For more information, visit

1. Narconon Spring Hill, Inc. v. Hernando County, FL. United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. 22 Oct. 2013. Print.

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