Google recently sent a shock wave through the addiction industry when it eliminated advertising for many addiction-related search terms it determined were ripe for fraud.
I join many in our industry in applauding this decision. Here is the statement by the National Association of Addiction Treatment Professionals (NAATP).
I’ve been involved in a number of quality initiatives with NAATP and other industry associations the last few years. One of our priorities has been the rise of disreputable and even fraudulent marketing that is preying on vulnerable people and their families.
The most egregious violators are third-party companies who collect leads online and sell them to treatment centers. They do not have treatment facilities and have no vested interest in the treatment outcome. They are not members of the national organizations like NAATP, accredited by the Joint Commission or licensed by state bodies.
They only care about finding potential patients who have insurance so they can sell them for the highest amount to the highest bidders.
These companies have mastered online marketing, including Google AdWords and SEO, and, in many markets, have taken market share from reputable treatment centers.
I believe Google’s action will have a profound effect on these companies.
This may sound like a strong statement, but no reputable treatment center should ever purchase leads from third-party aggregators. Human beings suffering from the disease of addiction have complex problems and deserve more than being a line on a spreadsheet.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Cumberland Heights also uses AdWords to find potential patients. It’s necessary in today’s market where lots of private investment is rushing to cash in on the $35 billion addiction industry.
At the same time, we want to make sure we use AdWords the right way. I’m proud of our leadership for recently adopting a Code of Ethics, the first line of which reads:
Our marketing efforts are based on awareness and engagement. We believe education is more valuable than fear. We use original content and never participate in predatory web practices. Our alumni have become our number one referral source because we provide quality care to our patients and continually cultivate relationships with them.
Since our founding in 1966, Cumberland Heights has been a place of hope and healing. Our Code of Ethics and marketing will always reflect these principles, the way our founders would have wanted.
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.