Original Article By: MICHAEL CORKERY, NY Times
Date: SEPT. 15, 2017

As drug addiction soars in the United States, a booming business of rehab centers has sprung up to treat the problem. And when drug addicts and their families search for help, they often turn to Google.

Google Sets Limits on Addiction Treatment Ads, Citing Safety

But prosecutors and health advocates have warned that many online searches are leading addicts to click on ads for rehab centers that are unfit to help them or, in some cases, endangering their lives.

This week, Google acknowledged the problem — and started restricting ads that come up when someone searches for addiction treatment on its site. “We found a number of misleading experiences among rehabilitation treatment centers that led to our decision,” Google spokeswoman Elisa Greene said in a statement on Thursday.

Google has taken similar steps to restrict advertisements only a few times before. Last year it limited ads for payday lenders, and in the past it created a verification system for locksmiths to prevent fraud.

In this case, the restrictions will limit a popular marketing tool in the $35 billion addiction treatment business, affecting thousands of small-time operators.

Google Sets Limits on Addiction Treatment Ads, Citing Safety

“This is a bold move by one of the world’s biggest companies, saying people’s lives are more important than profit,” said Greg Williams, co-founder of Facing Addiction, a nonprofit group that is an advocate for people struggling with addiction.

Many rehab centers, a large number of which are clustered in warm climates like Florida, Arizona and California, rely on Google searches to attract patients from across the country. Their strategy often included buying an ad that would come up when someone searched for phrases like “drug rehab” or “alcohol treatment centers.”

Google Sets Limits on Addiction Treatment Ads

As of this week, Google has stopped selling ads related to those searches, although it may lift the restriction if it can find a way to weed out misleading advertisements.

Search ads for addiction treatment are lucrative. Treatment providers, in some cases, have been willing to pay $70 per ad click, according to an analysis that Mr. Williams’ group conducted and presented to Google executives.

But the payoff for those clicks can be significant. Addicts who sign up for 30 days of residential treatment can bring in tens of thousands of dollars from private insurance.

The crucial, if unwitting, role that Google has played in the treatment industry exposes the deep flaws in how drug addicts are cared for in America. Despite the rapid growth in the number of addiction cases — and the Trump Administration’s declaration that the opioid crisis is a national emergency — the treatment industry remains a hodgepodge of upstart businesses, with only a few well-known providers.

What constitutes treatment is also all over the map, from yoga and equine therapy to daily doses of medication. And unlike other serious illnesses, like cancer or heart disease, where a physician typically refers the patient for treatment, many addicts and their families look for help on the internet.

That has made Google one of the largest referral sources for treating a disease that affects millions of Americans. And the companies willing to the pay the most for ads are the one that addicts are most likely to see on their search.

But ad-driven searches, according to advocates and law enforcement officials, have not always led patients to the best care. In some cases, they have found that patients are being duped, a phenomenon Google on Thursday acknowledged.

Last December, a Florida grand jury released a report detailing abuses in the state’s addiction treatment industry, which is centered around Palm Beach County. Among the findings, the grand jury zeroed on the problems with how some of the shoddy programs were being marketed online.

One witness, according to the grand jury report, described how “online marketers use Google search terms to essentially hijack the good name and reputation of notable treatment providers only to route the caller to the highest bidder.”

Another common trap: Addicts search Google for a rehab program close to their home, but they will click on an ad for a referral service pitching treatment in another state. The referral service then collects a fee, if they signed up.

Google’s restrictions were cheered by health officials, who have called for more medically based treatment. “People don’t always know what good treatment is,” said Dr. Vivek Murthy, who was surgeon general in the Obama Administration and published a oft-cited report last year that warned of the nation’s addiction crisis. “I am glad Google took steps to prevent the spread of these false ads.”

In targeting the ads for addiction treatment, Google consulted with experts including Mr. Williams, who himself has been in recovery for many years. He said he began discussions with Google executives around the time that Dr. Murthy released his report.

Mr. Williams said that he had explained to Google that his own experience trying to buy ads from the company had illustrated how the process of finding information about addiction treatment online was providing people with unreliable information. Mr. Williams said he discovered this when his group received a grant from Google that would help him buy ads promoting a website providing information about community based treatment — and found he couldn’t compete.

Buying ads on Google involves bidding to place your ad at the top of the search results when a user types in words relevant to your product or service. But Mr. Williams found that the bid prices for words related to treatment had gotten so expensive that his group couldn’t pay as much as the for-profit treatment providers. Some of those treatment providers, Mr. Williams told Google, were not only misleading, they had been charged with crimes.

In a series of phone calls and a meeting in Washington, D.C., Mr. Williams presented the company his research. He highlighted that some of the biggest buyers of ad words related to treatment had been accused of misdeeds related to insurance fraud and sexual assault.

“We stumbled upon this issue organically,” said Mr. Williams. “And they heard us out.”


A version of this article appears in print on September 15, 2017, on Page B5 of the New York edition with the headline: In Rare Move, Google Imposes New Limits on Addiction Treatment Ads, Citing Saftey.

Original Article: Green Hills News, Staff Writer, David Smith – February 22, 2017

Beloved Long-Haul Driver Bequeaths Home to Cumberland Heights Addiction Treatment Center
Beloved Long-Haul Driver Bequeaths Home to Cumberland Heights Addiction Treatment Center
A retired bus operator let it be know that upon his death he wanted to donate his home.

But Timothy Cotton, a retired bus operator who drove for major country music stars Tim McGraw, Conway Twitty, Alan Jackson, Kathy Mattea and the country music group Lonestar, also had a more pointed message: he wanted the success he achieved in life to be a tool for people needing help.

The home at Setliff Place in East Nashville sold this January generating $285,000, all of which was donated to Cumberland Heights, an addiction treatment center.

“This home holds a special place in our heart,” said Mallory Gibson, who, along with her husband, purchased the home. “Our family also lives on Setliff Place and we will now be able to raise our children within walking distance of each other. Tim was deeply committed to his family and his community, and we look forward to honoring that legacy in this beautiful home.”

Following the transaction, Cumberland Heights announced the creation of the Timothy Cotton Fund for Patient Assistance. The fund is part of Cumberland Heights’ endowment and will provide financial assistance to patients who cannot afford treatment or do not have insurance to cover costs.

Cotton was himself a patient on a MusiCares scholarship.

“Tim Cotton was a generous soul who loved caring for others,” said Jay Crosson, chief executive officer at Cumberland Heights. “His incredible donation and the Timothy Cotton Fund for Patient Assistance will help many, many people recover their life from drug and alcohol addiction. Tim’s memory will live on at Cumberland Heights in perpetuity.”

Cotton was renowned for his ability to make friends. He touched so many people in the Nashville recovery community that they organized aftercare meetings in his hospital room so he did not have to miss meetings.

After his death, Cotton’s sister Cathy Reisch, received numerous calls from former Cumberland Heights’ patients who had met Tim Cotton during treatment and were touched enough to call with condolences.

“The Cotton family is grateful to Bill Branch and Life Style Real Estate Advisors. Bill did more than donate his commission – he put his heart into this task, was very supportive to our entire family and dedicated a lot of time to make this sale happen for all the parties involved,” said Reisch.

Bill Branch of Life Style Real Estate Advisors served as broker and donated his commission because proceeds were being donated to Cumberland Heights.

Branch describes the experience as follows: “Tim Cotton loved his family, his home, and his neighborhood.”

Having worked with Cumberland Heights on several other real estate transactions to support their mission, it was immediately apparent to me that this was a very special situation. After meeting Tim’s sister Cathy Reisch for the first time, I wanted to be a part of helping to make Tim’s dreams and wishes for his home come true. We had two goals from the start: to raise as much money for Tim’s endowment to Cumberland Heights as possible through the sale of his home, and do as much as possible to find new stewards for the property that would love the home and the neighborhood as much as Tim did. On both counts, we succeeded beyond our hopes, and there will be many people benefiting from Tim’s beautiful heart and enormous generosity for years to come.”

Cotton was the 1991 Honoree for the Mary Catherine Strobel Award as Volunteer of the Year from Nashville CARES and trained HIV/AIDS volunteer.

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