The initial fear and devastation a family experiences when a loved one is diagnosed with a life-threatening or chronic disease can be overwhelming and confusing. Many people will turn to their family physician for treatment recommendations and information about the disease. Families will also consult relatives, friends, clergy or survivors for support or to find out where they received effective treatment. But this isn’t common with addiction. The stigma surrounding the disease of addiction is so prevalent families often turn to the anonymity of the internet to seek help for their loved one sometimes leading them into unsavory treatment schemes.
These searches and schemes are contributing to growing unethical practices in addiction treatment where corrupt treatment providers are preying on unsuspecting and uneducated families in crisis. This recent news story aired on Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly on NBC illustrates more accurately the current environment:
However, these issues don’t begin and end in one Florida town. With the click of a button these unethical practices reach into the living rooms of any family suffering from addiction. Searches on the internet for common terms like “rehab” and “addiction” are filled with treatment directories listing dozens of facilities in your region. These directories sell themselves as placement specialists with their 800 number prominently displayed all over the “unbiased” website. These directories often use reputable treatment centers’ names and images without permission. When the number is called someone posing as the reputable center’s staff, after little discovery, will quickly refer the caller to an alternative facility. What families don’t know is the referred facility is paying hundreds to thousands of dollars for that call. This is another form of patient brokering.
It’s difficult for families to make informed health care decisions while their loved one is being persuaded away from effective treatment programs into fraudulent ones. So how do families educate themselves against unethical practices? The best first step is to consult a trusted family physician, therapists, clinicians, the local recovery community and clergy for treatment recommendations. When you discover a program you’re interested in visit their website and call their direct number. Do NOT rely on a call center. And finally, educate yourself on what to look for in a trustworthy recovery program.
The following questions may be helpful when seeking a reputable recovery program:
- How long has the program been in operation? Providers in operation over 10 years typically aren’t seeking quick profits.
- Is the program licensed by the state?
- Is the program accredited by the Joint Commission, an independent, nonprofit which certifies health care organizations and programs in the United States, or the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), an international nonprofit accreditor of health and human services?
- Is the program a part of the national trade organization for addiction treatment? Are they contributing to the community, including taking the NAATP ethics pledge which has been in place for five years?
- Is the program In Network or Out of Network? For-profit or Nonprofit? While not all Out of Network or For-profit providers are bad it’s nearly impossible to be dishonest from a billing standpoint if you’re In Network with insurance payers.
- How frequently does the program perform lab testing like urine drug screens? Does the program have financial ownership or receive incentives from the lab company?
- Does the program have a family component or family participation? Is there an extra charge for this service?
- What levels of care does the program provide?
- Does the program have placement criteria? Do they refer patients to alternative facilities when they don’t fall into their area of expertise? What are those criteria?
- Does the program offer airline tickets, free rent or other inducements? Offers of free rent or other benefits may be evidence of illegal patient brokering or in some states fraudulent inducement.
- Does the program have a strong alumni base? Do they offer alumni services such as Aftercare?
- If seeking a sober home, are referral fees paid to the sober home from a treatment center if residents enroll at that center? If so, it suggests the presence of an illegal kickback scheme.
It is absolutely possible to recover life from addiction. I’m living proof. That’s why the information gathered while seeking treatment is the most important research done for the benefit of someone struggling with addiction. We see the miracle of recovery every day at Cumberland Heights, but it’s important to keep your eyes open and make certain you’re well informed when making decisions which will set the trajectory for your loved one’s life from this point forward.
Follow this link for more coverage and additional resources to assist in your addiction treatment research.
Jay Crosson is the CEO at Cumberland Heights, a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center in Nashville, Tennessee. Cumberland Heights was established more than 50 years ago and Crosson’s experience there has spanned half that time.
Jay is a member of the board for the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP), and is chair of the ethics committee.
Jay is a grateful recovering alumnus of Cumberland Heights. His personal experience of treatment at Cumberland Heights and the transformative power of the 12 Steps shape his leadership principles today.