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Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation Center Scams – What to Look Out For

Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation Center Scams – What to Look Out For

“It’s a horrible business. It’s ugly. It doesn’t mean all rehabs are bad. But because of the lack of regulation, there’s a huge potential for fraud.” ~ Deb Herzog, former federal prosecutor who has investigated the rehab industry Here’s the bad news –According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there are almost 23 million Americans aged 12 and up who have had a Substance Use Disorder within the past year. Here’s the worse news –Only about 3.8 million of those received ANY substance use treatment, and just 2.2 million received care in a specialty facility. That equates to 9.8%, or less than 1 in 10. Here’s the worst news –The sheer number of people in need has created an explosive and lucrative multibillion-dollar industry. And while most alcohol abuse rehab centers are respectable and dedicated to helping struggling addicts and alcoholics, there are a growing number of less-than-reputable programs that care more about profit than patients. But there IS good news – when you find the right program that addresses your unique needs as an individual, recovery DOES work. With timely intervention, evidenced-based treatment, and proper aftercare and support, you CAN regain your sobriety. Let’s examine some of the most egregious offenses committed by these so-called rehab programs. More importantly, we will also discuss what to look for in a proper alcohol and drug rehabilitation center.

“Get your loved one the help they need. Our substance use disorder program accepts many health insurance plans, this is our residential program.”

Overwhelming Need: Substance Abuse Statistics

Problematic drinking, illicit drug abuse, and the misuse of prescription medications is a significant problem in the United States. According to SAMHSA, a breakdown of the different types of SUD looks like this:

  • Alcohol Use Disorder – 15.1 million
  • Marijuana Use Disorder – 4 million
  • Pain Reliever Use Disorder – 1.8 million
  • Cocaine Use Disorder – 867,000
  • Methamphetamine Use Disorder – 684,000
  • Heroin Use Disorder – 626,000
  • Tranquilizer Use Disorder – 618,000
  • Stimulant Use Disorder – 540,000

The statistics are even more alarming when you consider the human cost. Last year the number of fatal overdoses in this country is estimated to be well over 72,000an all-time record. In fact, that makes the 19th straight year that a dubious new “record” has been set. Tragically, the average age of an overdose victim is just 41 years old, and drug overdoses are now the leading-cause of death for Americans under the age of 50. But there is a tremendous economic impact as well. Over the past 15 years, the number of “prime-age” men between the ages of 25 and 54 has declined by 20%, largely due to the drug crisis. Currently, SUD keeps at least 1 million Americans out of the workforce, creating a loss of 5 billion work hours. It is estimated that between 2001 and 2017, the economic impact of the US drug epidemic topped $1 TRILLION.

Addiction Treatment Is BIG Business

These recruitment operations take advantage of the desperation of people struggling with addiction to refer them to treatment centers not based on their best interest, but in order to get a commission. Patients need to access safe and effective recovery options instead of being treated like paychecks.” ~ Maura Healey, Massachusetts Attorney General Would it surprise you to know that the market for the addiction recovery industry is well in excess of $35 billion a year? That is a 44% increase since 2009. By 2020, spending in estimated to reach $42 billion, representing a jump of another 20%. Yet despite that enormous figure, there is little oversight for provider credentials or treatment pricing at any level, municipal, state, or federal. For example, in California, there are nearly 2000 rehab centers. These are  overseen by only 16 inspectors. With that kind of money at stake, some unscrupulous profit-driven programs are treating the human misery of addiction as a cash cow, and they are milking it for all it’s worth. How much money can be made on a single patient?

  • Professional intervention – $2500, plus expenses
  • Residential drug detox – at least $500 per day, lasting anywhere from 3 to 14 days
  • Inpatient drug rehab – between $6000 and $32,000, depending upon location and amenities. In fact high-end, “luxury” rehabs can cost over $100,000 for a 30-day stay.
  • Intensive outpatient programs – up to $10,000 per month
  • Partial hospitalization programs – between $350 and $450 per day
  • Sober living facilities – up to $2500 per month
  • Methadone maintenance programs – $4000 per year
  • Once-monthly administrations of Vivitrol – up to $1200 per injection
  • Sober coaches – up to $1900 per day, plus expenses and travel, usually with a five-day minimum
  • Drug tests –
    • Saliva – $69 per 5-panel test
    • Urine – $50-$80
    • Blood-$279 per 10-panel test
    • Hair follicle – over $100

In light of so much available money, it’s easy to see why an addict – especially one with insurance – is viewed as a commodity.

The Downside of Mandatory Coverage

Providers have a right to make a profit, but certainly not when those profit motives can compromise the health and well-being of patients and raise premiums for other Californians.” ~ Senator Connie Leyva And here’s the thing – those are just the average prices for self-paying clients. In reality, drug rehab programs are free to charge whatever their customers will pay. And, because the overwhelming majority of people enter into rehab in crisis, they are often in no position to make rational decisions about the affordability or appropriateness of their care. And because federal law mandates that insurance carriers must provide coverage for treatment, the system now lends itself to financial abuse – inflated prices, unnecessary services, overcharging, and unauthorized billing. For example, in 2015, American Addiction Centers, a publicly-traded company devoted exclusively to addiction treatment, was investigated for conducting urine tests 12 times as often as necessary. In fact, in New Jersey, the company was sued by Blue Cross Blue Shield for fraudulent drug testing.

“We treat both addiction and co-occurring disorders and accept many health insurance plans. Take a look at our inpatient program.”

Abuses in the Addiction Recovery Industry

“This is an entire industry that’s been corrupted by easy money. Unscrupulous actors have taken advantage of well-intended federal law, and a lack of any good law at the state level, to profit off people at the lowest stages of their lives.” ~ Dave Aronberg, State Attorney for Palm Beach County, Florida Unfortunately, AAC’s actions were not simply a case of a single impropriety by one company.

  • In 2016, a California “rehab mogul” was arrested, and along with a colleague, was accused of perpetrating $176 million worth of insurance fraud. He was also criminally charged with several counts of sexual assault against patients.
  • In 2017, a Florida man who operated treatment centers and sober homes was sentenced to over 27 years in prison for health care fraud, money laundering, and sex trafficking.
  • In May 2018, a North Carolina rehab program made participants work 16-hour shifts as unpaid caregivers for disabled adults.

And those are just the high-profile cases. It is the everyday issues that are even more concerning. For example, in California alone, the number of annual complaints about licensed rehab programs almost DOUBLED between 2013 and 2016, jumping from 266 to 509. When we examine some of the more common deceptive practices employed by rogue rehab facilities around the country, we can get a fuller picture of how widespread the problem really is.

Patient Brokering

“If a patient had a heart problem and a physician got money every time that patient was sent to the hospital, you wouldn’t know if the client really needed to go to the hospital, or did the physician really need to make their money?” ~ Heather Hayes, Interventionist When a treatment provider is supplied with a patient or a lead to a prospective patient in exchange for perks and/or money, this is an illegal act known as “patient brokering”. For “junkie-hunters”, it can be an extremely lucrative undertaking—paying up to $10,000 for every person booked into treatment. The facility can then bill the insurance carrier tens of thousands of dollars. And these well-paid middlemen will find prospective patients any way they can. One common tactic is to troll 12-Step meetings or even other rehab programs. Once they find an acceptable prospect, they will entice them with offers of free room and board, free cigarettes, and the promise of recovery in a comfortable environment. This is why the states of California and Florida are such prime locations. Southern California, in particular, is known as the “Rehab Riviera”. For example, Malibu has less than 13,000 residents, but 47 licensed rehab centers, and Costa Mesa has 102 centers serving a population of about 110,000. Likewise, the Palm Beach area in Florida is known as the “Rehab Capital of the World.” Annually, addiction treatment services bring in $1 billion of revenue to Palm Beach County. Under federal law, it is illegal for any healthcare provider – including drug rehab facilities – to pay commissions, bonuses, or kickbacks for patient referrals. The idea behind this law is the theory that healthcare recommendations should be based solely on the patient’s best interests, rather than financial incentives.

Violation of Privacy Laws

Confidential information is not necessarily relegated to a patient’s name. In fact, it includes information related to a person’s past, present, or future physical or mental health condition, and anything associated with healthcare services or treatment.” ~ HCPro, a company that specializes in healthcare regulation and compliance When a patient’s information is sold/shared without consent or medical necessity with individuals outside of their treatment team, it is a violation of HIPAA laws. These laws are in place to protect a patient’s privacy by prohibiting the release of sensitive personal information. Obviously, the practice also known as “body brokering” ignores the law, because patients’ names and information are often sold to the highest bidder – the rehab program willing to pay the most. As a result, many patients receive substandard care. There is so much money to be made that some brokers will pay for the prospective patient’s insurance and airfare out of their own pockets, because they know that they will be well-compensated by the rehab facility later.

Predatory Web Practices

“Families who may only have one shot may lose a child because they don’t end up in the right type of treatment.” ~ Heather Hayes, Interventionist One deceptive practice used by online referral services is to intentionally hide from potential clients the relationship between the referral company and the treatment facility. Often, these two supposedly-separate entities are owned by the same parent company. Obviously, this calls into question any supposition that the referral company makes its recommendations based on the needs of the patient. Another unsavory action is to use online editors to “hijack” the competition’s website, so prospective client calls and queries are routed to a different program than they are expecting. This can result in someone being sent to a rehab that can’t treat their illness adequately. There was so much fraud happening online regarding supposedly-objective referral services that in September 2017, Google set limits on treatment center advertising. Spokeswoman Elisa Greene said, “We found a number of misleading experiences among rehabilitation treatment centers that led to our decision.

Identity Theft and Insurance Fraud

“These are not victimless crimes. The costs get passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher premiums. The fraud can also be… corrosive.” ~ Dave Jones, California’s Insurance Commissioner Another common scam is to offer uninsured addicts “scholarships” that promise free treatment services. In reality, they are signed up for premium insurance plans—usually, without their knowledge or full understanding. These plans will include generous out-of-state provisions that allow the facility to charge the insurance carrier higher rates. It gets even worse. Some disreputable rehab programs will bill the insurance company for services that were not medically-necessary – the excessive drug testing mentioned above, for example. Other times, they will charge for services that were never provided. Of one company, Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurie Rucoba said, “They would bill Medicare $135 an hour and then take the patients bowling or to see a movie”.

Illegal Marketing Practices

“Overall, not just unethical marketing but unethical practices as a whole give a black eye to the addiction treatment field, and in the best-case scenario stops people from seeking help. In the worst-case scenario, tragedies occur, and families lose loved ones because they ended up at a poorly-run or clinically-inappropriate facility that could not handle their issues.” ~ Zack Snitzer, rehab expert Unethical brokers and rogue rehab facilities will promise almost anything to a desperate addict to persuade them to check in— “premium” services, cell phones, plane tickets, free rent at a sober living house, and even direct payments. While such patient enticements are both unethical and illegal and may not be included in insurance billings, companies find their ways to get around that restriction. They bill patients for these items, and then never bother to pursue collection.

Sober Homes as Lures

“… I ended up going from flophouse to flophouse, homeless, strung out … given all of these promises of the luxurious life. But it’s really, it’s seedy, it’s dark and not something you would ever imagine when you hear the word treatment. ~ Casey O’Brien, who spent almost 2 years within the underbelly of the Florida rehab industry A “sober-living home” is an alcohol-and drug-free environment for individuals who are newly-sober and trying to follow an evidence-based lifestyle. It’s important to note that these are NOT part of any treatment program – they are simply supposed to be a “safe” place for people in recovery to live. Sober living homes are not cheap – rent can easily be over $2000 per month. In some cases, residents will also have to pay a portion of the utility bills. Typically, residents of a sober living home will be required to remain drug-free, help with household chores, hold down a job, and attend outpatient rehab while they live there. Unfortunately, this is where the opportunities for abuse arise. Because of the lucrative insurance money, an increasingly-common scam is to offer residents free rent in exchange for enrolling in a specific outpatient program that can be heavily billed. Sometimes, residents are even allowed to use drugs without fear of being kicked out. As Ms. O’Brien says, “It doesn’t matter if you’re clean or sober, your rent gets paid, you’re given cigarettes, and can use drugs freely so long as you take a drug test for them and go to these quote-unquote ‘intensive outpatient programs’.” In some cases, individual residents who know how the scam works are paid to fish for new potential clients at local 12-Step meetings and through their personal connections. “If someone says, ‘I can give you money, just tell your friend to come here,’ 9 people out of 10 are going to take that deal because it benefits them. They don’t realize (the) negative impact,” says O’Brien.

Unscientific Approaches Means Substandard Treatment

In the addiction treatment industry, there is another hazard to look out for – treatment strategies that are not supported by science. While not exactly a “scam”, programs that are not founded in empirical evidence can complicate recovery at best, and at worst, directly lead to relapse and continued addiction. Let’s examine some of the most common problems found among some treatment programs.

The is No Cure for Alcoholism or Drug Addiction

If you were to stroll through the self-help section of any bookstore or perform even a brief online search, you would be bombarded with numerous results exclaiming how someone has found the “Cure for Addiction”. To someone lost to active SUD, those words are a godsend. In a desperate need to believe, too many people fall victim to claims that amount to little more than modern-day snake oil hucksterism. But like it or not, current medical science says that there is no cure for addiction. A person whose brain chemistry and structure has been changed by chronic substance abuse will ALWAYS be especially-vulnerable to the effects of alcohol and drugs. To be clear – ANY book, website, or rehab program promising to “cure” your addiction is guilty of making outlandish and impossible claims. Right away, this should serve as a “red flag” telling you to avoid that particular option. However, it is important to understand that even though addiction is incurable, it IS treatable, and that is an important distinction. Treating an addiction means employing strategies that help a person (a) abstain from alcohol and drug use, (b) regain their physical and mental health, and (c), live a happier, healthier, and more productive life.

“We accept many health insurance plans. Get your life back in order, take a look at our residential program.”

There are No Guarantees

Likewise, be wary of any program that positively guarantees that you will be able to overcome or beat your addiction. Unfortunately, there is no way to promise that 100% of participants in ANY recovery program is definitely going to be successful. It is irresponsible and misleading to claim otherwise. The best rehab programs address the disease of addiction on multiple levels – physical, emotional, educational, social, behavioral, nutritional, spiritual, and medical – in order to maximize the likelihood of long-term sobriety and recovery. In a related manner, don’t blithely accept the “success rates” touted by some treatment facilities. Ask questions. How do they judge “success”? Different rehabs manipulate the statistics by focusing on different criteria:

  • Program completion rates
  • Length of abstinence at various follow-up intervals – three months, six months, one year, three years, five years, etc.

Understanding the basis for any claims will ensure that you are comparing your various rehab options properly.

Personal History Matters

“Because drug abuse and addiction have so many dimensions and disrupt so many aspects of an individual’s life, treatment is not simple… Addiction treatment must help the individual stop using drugs, maintain a drug-free lifestyle, and achieve productive functioning in the family, at work, and in society.” ~ Dr. Nora Volkow, M.D., Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse Lesser-quality rehab programs take an “one-size-fits-all” approach to recovery. They have a very narrow treatment philosophy, and that is reflected in the limited number of available services. Top rehab programs, on the other hand, operate with the knowledge that the disease of addiction manifests differently in every person. Because there are so many causal factors – genetics, environment, personal habits, drug of choice, age of initiation and length of use, mental health issues, etc. – no two people will struggle with substance abuse in exactly the same manner. And because the disease presents differently, treatment should also vary – it MUST be tailored to the individual to be effective. Not every person will require the same services. This is why the best drug and alcohol treatment programs spend a considerable amount of time on the initial intake interview and assessment. And after an incoming patient has been thoroughly evaluated and medically assessed, every member of the treatment team will meet to create an individualized service plan. As opposed to an impersonal (and inadequate) plan that just treats the symptoms of the disease, premium rehab programs offer a variety of services that treat the whole person.

Drug Detox is Not the Same as Drug Rehab

“Addiction isn’t about substance – you aren’t addicted to the substance, you are addicted to the alteration of mood that the substance brings.” ~ Susan Cheever, author of Desire: Where Sex Meets Addiction and My name is Bill – Bill Wilson: His Life and the Creation of Alcoholics Anonymous Many people are under the false impression that all they need to do to recover is stop drinking and using. Unfortunately, there are too many poor-quality rehab programs that do little to change that impression. But true recovery involves MORE than just abstaining from drugs and alcohol. Yes, physical sobriety is the critical first step. You cannot move forward and receive the lessons and messages of recovery while your mind is still hijacked by intoxicants. But because active addiction also causes so many other problems – anxiety, depression, trauma, dysfunctional relationships, poor coping mechanisms, negative self-image, etc. – these must also be addressed Consider the following quote from journalist Tanya Gold: “Alcoholism is a strange condition. If you survive the drinking stage, and many don’t, it has relatively little to do with alcohol, which is merely the drug with which the alcoholic treats herself. It is, rather, a way of thinking, and continues long after you have stopped drinking. It is a voice in the head: a malevolent voice that wants you to die.” Although the quote refers to Ms. Gold’s battle with alcoholism, it is just as appropriate for ANY SUD. Recovery means changing the way you behave, react, think, and even feel about the stresses and temptations of daily life. It means finally admitting that your “normal” way of dealing with things just isn’t working. The best rehab programs help with this by devoting a significant amount of time addressing those issues that contribute to problematic substance abuse:

  • Reducing stress
  • Healthy coping skills
  • Trauma processing
  • Avoiding triggers
  • Co-occurring mental illness
  • Better communication
  • Family/Couples counseling

Keep this in mind – while abstinence is NECESSARY for lasting recovery, it does not COMPLETE that recovery.

Alcoholics Anonymous is Not Rehab

“AA is not really a treatment ‒ it’s a fellowship. If you go to your doctor to be treated for cancer or heart disease you expect your doctor to be doing what the science says is the best treatment available for what you have. That has not been the standard in addiction treatment.” ~ Dr. William R. Miller, Ph.D., Emeritus Distinguished Professor, University of New Mexico, The Business of Recovery Too many ineffectual rehabs base their ENTIRE program on the 12 Steps of Recovery. And while AA and NA have helped generations of substance abusers, it’s important to keep in mind that these are fellowship support groups, rather than medical treatments. The 12 Steps were developed before the current acceptance of addiction as a legitimate medical condition. As such, they have several inherent shortcomings. For example:

  • 12-Step groups can’t provide FDA-approved medications that can ease cravings, reduce anxiety, or stabilize moods.
  • As necessary as it is to have the support of others, that support isn’t a substitute for professional mental health care that can address comorbid illnesses such as depression, PTSD, or bipolar disorder.

Today, the top rehab programs offer treatments based on measurable scientific data—peer-reviewed studies, clinical trials, and proven results. The 12-Steps are relegated to their proper place – an important source of social support.

Herbal Remedies Aren’t Medications

“Ultimately, pharmacogenetics can be expected to provide a basis for the personalized treatment of addiction by matching specific medications to patients based on their genetic characteristics, enhancing treatment efficacy and reducing the risk of adverse effects.” ~ Clinical Manual of Addiction Pharmacology, edited by Drs. Henry Kranzler, M.D., Dominic Ciraulo, M.D., and Leah Zindel, R. Ph., M.A.L.S. Some treatment centers advertise “all-natural” treatments with nutritional and herbal supplements. This is the exact opposite of a scientific, evidenced-based strategy. The nutritional supplement market is HUGE – more than half of all Americans have taken some kind of supplement within the past year. By 2021, vitamins, minerals, and supplements will generate approximately $60 billion in revenue annually. Purportedly, there are pills, powders, and preparations for virtually every ailment known to man – including addiction. Some of these make sense. For instance, Vitamin B1 supplements can help counter the malnutrition and thiamine deficiency caused by chronic alcoholism. But other supplements can be ineffective or even dangerous. Take Kratom, for example. It has been marketed as a “safe and effective” alternative to both methamphetamine and opioids. It was promoted as being effective for withdrawal from either of these drugs. At one point, there were up to 5 million Kratom users in the United States. But here’s the thing – many supplements make all sorts of outlandish claims that have been not verified by a reputable source, such as the US Food and Drug Administration. Often, the promised benefits turn out to be nonexistent or at best, negligible. The problem is compounded further when such supplements are ordered online from overseas suppliers. Depending upon the country of origin, there can be an extreme lack of acceptable standards. Far too frequently, there are issues with purity or adulteration. And sometimes, the FDA does step in and perform tests that contradict what has been claimed. In February 2018, the FDA officially classified Kratom as an opioid, saying that it was not “safe or effective for any medical use.”

Medication-Assisted Treatment – the Gold Standard

“The government is talking about treatment and medication-assisted treatment in a way that the government has never done before.” ~ Tom Hill, Vice-President of Addiction and Recovery, National Council for Behavioral Health Experts in the medical and addiction recovery fields agree that Medication-Assisted Treatment, or MAT, is the most effective way to treat SUD. This is a strategy that utilizes both behavioral counseling and approved medications. These drugs can provide several benefits:

  • Fewer cravings
  • Improved sleep
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Alleviation of withdrawal
  • Deterrence

Unlike supplements, FDA-approved medications must go through a rigorous testing phase before they are allowed to be sold. While some of the best-known are Antabuse, methadone, and buprenorphine, there are actually over 30 medications that can be prescribed as pharmaceutical support during recovery. How effective is MAT? Dr. Raj Masih, of the Potomac Highland Guild’s Substance Abuse Anti-Stigma Initiative, says, “…success rates are over 70 percent – 70 percent of people will be abstinent in one year.” This highlights an important difference between the best treatment programs and those that are of lesser quality. Rehabs that offer MAT must have a medical doctor on staff in order to write prescriptions. In fact, for some of these medications, the doctor must receive special training and certification before they are even allowed to prescribed them. Currently, only about 4% of physicians in America can prescribe anti-addiction medications containing buprenorphine.

Accreditation is Important

It is not a mandatory requirement for any rehab program to receive national accreditation, but when they DO have it, that is a very good sign. It demonstrates that the facility meets the highest standards recognized in the industry and provides demonstrably-superior addiction recovery services. The top accreditor in the addiction treatment industry is the Commission on Accreditation of Rehab Facilities, or CARF. CARF accreditation isn’t automatic. Programs must submit to both a peer review process and on-site inspections to ensure that best practices are being followed.

Always Check Licensing and Certification

There is no mandatory national certification exam for addiction counselors. The 2012 Columbia University report on addiction medicine found that only six states required alcohol and substance-abuse counselors to have at least a bachelor’s degree and that only one state, Vermont, required a master’s degree. Fourteen states had no license requirements whatsoever ‒ not even a GED or an introductory training course was necessary…” ~ Gabrielle Glaser, “The Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous” Once you have verified that the rehab facility as a whole is nationally-accredited, your next step is to check that the clinical staff is certified or licensed in the state to treat addiction. There is NO national certifications or licensing each state has its own requirements. For example, in Idaho, in order to become a Certified Alcohol/Drug Counselor (CADC), applicants need: Idaho –According to the Idaho Board of Alcohol/Drug Counselor Certification, Inc., the following is needed to be a Certified Alcohol/Drug Counselor (CADC):

  • 6000 hours of supervised work experience with drug or alcohol abuse clients
  • A portion of those work experience hours can be replaced by a college degree in a Behavioral Science field:
    • Alcohol/Drug Studies
    • Counseling
    • Psychology
    • Social Science
    • Social Work
    • Sociology
  • Master’s Degree – will replace 4000 hours
  • Bachelor’s Degree – will replace 2000 hours
  • Associate Degree – will replace 1000 hours
  • An internship under a qualified supervisor with a minimum of 300 hours of supervision. A minimum of 10 hours should be spent on each of the 12 Core Functions of Substance Abuse Counseling.
  • 270 additional hours of education involving the tasks and performance standards of substance abuse counseling. This coursework should include:
    • Alcohol and drug education
    • Assessment
    • Case management
    • Professional responsibility.
  • A minimum of 6 hours of instruction about professional ethics, including:
    • Client welfare
    • Federal/state laws
    • Financial concerns
    • How to cooperate with other institutions and professionals
    • Personal wellness
    • Professional development

A New Way to Vet Rehab Programs

“…this is one way the market gets cleaner and people get the help they deserve.” ~ John Horton, Chief Executive of LegitScript Google recently announced that it would be selectively lifting the ban on advertisements by addiction treatment facilities. To qualify for this, individual programs would need to be vetted by LegitScript, an independent third-party. This is also an excellent way to find out important information about any program you are considering. Among the vetting standards required of applicants:

  • Business registration – Registered as a corporate entity within the particular state
  • Compliance – Adherence to state regulatory and licensing requirements
  • Domain name registration – Complete transparency on all websites and domain names owned or controlled by the program
  • Policies and procedures – Must provide written procedures and policies that demonstrate an adherence to best practices, including a list of all intervention or treatment services offered or recommended
  • Qualifications – The business owner, the business leadership, and all treatment professionals on staff must provide resumes that establish their training and expertise in addiction treatment. Depending upon the services offered, some facilities will be required to have an on-site medical practitioner.
  • Facility location – Must provide proof of ownership or lease agreement for the physical location of the facility
  • Professional setting – The facility and any referred services must be in a business, rather than residential, setting
  • Background and history – Every key staff member must submit to a thorough background check and must disclose any previous civil, regulatory, or criminal violations. This includes any past litigation within the past 10 years.
  • Facility disclosure – Must disclose all corporate entities and physical properties either under its control or to which participants are referred. These must also meet the same listed standards.
  • Insurance – Must provide proof and maintenance of sufficient insurance to operate and addiction treatment facility
  • Privacy – Must comply with all applicable provisions, laws, and regulations regarding HIPAA
  • Business practices – None of the facility’s business practices or offers can deceive or defraud patients or the public in any way.
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment – Any pharmaceutical options must be approved by the FDA. Unapproved drugs, designer drugs, herbal remedies, miracle cures, or any substances on LegitScript’s “Red Flag” list are not allowed.
  • Incentives – Must disclose all incentives offered or provided to clients who use the service. Specifically, facilities that offer to pay for travel will NOT be approved.

Your Rehab Checklist

Before committing to any rehab program, it is in your extreme best interest to perform your due diligence and do as much research as possible. When you have narrowed the list, here are some questions you should ask that will help you make your final decision. Remember: VERIFY any accreditations or certifications.

  • Is the facility accredited? By whom?
  • What are the credentials of the clinical staff?
  • What is the clinical staff-to-patient ratio?
  • What are the qualifications of the person making the initial assessment?
  • Who are the members of the treatment team?
  • Will I have input on my treatment plan?
  • Is medically-supervised detox available?
  • What services are offered?
  • Is the program based in empirical evidence?
  • What supportive therapies are offered? Examples, yoga, massage, pet therapy, art/poetry therapy, etc.
  • What MAT options are available?
  • Are treatment services provided “in-house” or via outside referrals?
  • How often do patients meet with certified/licensed treatment staff?
  • How often are both individual and group sessions offered?
  • Will I have access to a medical doctor?
  • How are individual medical needs addressed?
  • How many clients are in treatment at the same time?
  • How many clients are assigned per room?
  • Is the facility monitored 24/7, by both human supervision and camera surveillance?
  • What type of security is provided?
  • How are special dietary needs handled?
  • Are exercise equipment or programs offered?
  • Are there recreational opportunities or outings?
  • What are the policies regarding phone calls and visitation?
  • Is there access to religious services?
  • Is family or couples counseling provided?
  • How are grievances handled?
  • What kinds of long-term aftercare services are provided?

The Bottom Line about Rehab Scams

“What we really need is for loved ones to get angry and stop saying, ‘we need more money for treatment,’ and start going to the government and saying, ‘we need this stuff investigated,’ and ‘we need money for treatment that treats our loved ones with dignity, respect and evidence.’” ~ Maria Szalavitz, co-author of Recovery Options: The Complete Guide It’s bad enough that shady, profit-driven, in-name-only rehab programs are breaking the law and defrauding insurance carriers. But their most unpardonable offense has to be targeting addicts, alcoholics, and their families when they are at their lowest and most vulnerable. People click on websites and call the numbers they see on television advertisements because they need help. Substance abuse has made their lives unmanageable. At this point, people are desperate, and these predatory programs take advantage of that desperation.

Finding the Drug and Alcohol Treatment That You Deserve

Despite all of the horror stories, the part of the fact remains that most specialized alcohol and drug addiction treatment programs are doing the right things. Every day across the country, passionate professionals help guide the recovery of millions of people who are trying to get their lives back. But these abuses do place an added responsibility onto substance abusers and their families. Today, it is no longer enough to contact the nearest program and sign up. More than ever, it is up to the patient to do the homework and the legwork necessary to find the RIGHT addiction treatment program – one that has the reputation, the resources, and the commitment needed to support successful and lasting recovery.