Florida Treatment Centers Fighting Against the “Business” of Addiction

by | Mar 21, 2016 | Addiction, Treatment | 3 comments

Home » Addiction » Florida Treatment Centers Fighting Against the “Business” of Addiction

Thanks to the actions of some Florida treatment centers, this is how many have come to see the leaders of the rehabilitation industry. (aastock/Shutterstock)

Thanks to the actions of some Florida treatment centers, this is how many have come to see the leaders of the rehabilitation industry. (aastock/Shutterstock)

It is no huge secret that many harbor great distrust for Florida treatment centers. They can’t help but note that recovery in Florida is a $1 billion industry, and they leap to the conclusion that all Florida treatment centers are only in it for the money. A recent BuzzFeed article investigates the matter further, uncovering some very uncomfortable truths in the process. They found that many treatment centers pay “marketers” $500 for every well-insured patient they can bring through the doors. Some headhunters even pay for these addicts and alcoholics to relapse so that they will fail their urine screen and have to go through a full continuum of care involving detox, treatment, and sober living.

The lack of trust does not stop there. The 2008 Parity Act was supposed to be a positive development in the fight to get addicts into treatment, but some Florida treatment centers have tapped into their greed and realized that guaranteed insurance means guaranteed profits if they can get addicts and alcoholics through their doors. As presidential hopefuls such as Ted Cruz and Hilary Clinton lobby for additional funding for treatment, some are almost actively hoping that they fail. The public doesn’t have much love for addicts and alcoholics, and often turns a blind eye for their care. The thought that many Florida treatment centers are actively making a profit to offer minimal help will not do much to allay their cynicism.

Numerous other problems plague many Florida treatment centers. Many are lacking in staff, flooded with addicts, and short on comfortable places to shelter the people who desperately need treatment. Some treatment centers provide prospective patients with a false image of the level of care they will receive once they walk through the doors. But in the midst of all this greed and dishonesty, there is no shortage of Florida treatment centers who are doing right by their patients and trying to do everything they can to provide rehabilitation to those who need it. Below, we will examine the problem before taking a look at the ways in which many Florida treatment centers—including Amethyst Recovery—are trying to fight against the notion of addiction as a business model.

Florida Treatment Centers: The Bad

There is a disturbing amount of dishonesty in the way some treatment centers have chosen to run their institutions. (www.BillionPhotos.com/Shutterstock)

There is a disturbing amount of dishonesty in the way some treatment centers have chosen to run their institutions. (www.BillionPhotos.com/Shutterstock)

One of the primary reasons that many larger Florida treatment centers are able to function as they do is that local authorities have little say in the matter. The federal government has taken lead on investigations against these shady practices, which means that local authorities with more immediate access to the treatment centers in question have done little to enforce ethical treatment. The feds are doing what they can, but only two treatment centers have been shut down since they began their investigation.

And this is most certainly a legal issue. As per the Florida Patient Brokering Act, the allegation that Florida treatment centers are paying as much as $500 per head to these “junkie hunters” would constitute a direct violation of the law. In fact, it is a felony in the third degree—if you can prove it. Treatment centers engaging in illegal practices aren’t likely to be keeping publicly accessible ledgers on their headhunters. The result is that tracking them down would require a great deal of time and a fair amount of resources. Not only that, but the victim in this case would be the addict—the person who is getting a free place to stay in return for allowing the treatment center to collect on their insurance money. For those who have hit rock bottom yet have not chosen to recover, this is a pretty cushy deal.

You would think that the lies and deceit would end once these addicts get out of treatment, since halfway houses do not collect on insurance; however, some Florida treatment centers have found a way around this. If these sober living facilities partner with outpatient programs, they can share in the profits by recommending their patients to continue care after inpatient treatment has ended. In some cases, they have supposedly incentivized their patients with perks such as mobile phones and rent discounts to get them to play along. Again, what is the motivation for the “victim” in such cases to roll over on the criminal element that has gifted them with a life that they could not afford for themselves?

The worst is that the problem is spreading. It’s spreading to more reputable treatment centers, who have been infested with “moles”—addicts who go in and attempt to recruit patients to the treatment center for which they are headhunting. More than that, Florida treatment centers are popping up like wildfire. There are hundreds of facilities around Delray Beach alone, many of which have been opened by addicts who spent time in shadier recovery centers and discovered that rehab can be profitable. This has affected the reputability of all Florida treatment centers, to the extent that Cigna has opted out of the state’s insurance exchange for 2016. Facilities with absolutely no history of fraud are now having trouble securing insurance for their needier patients, through no fault of their own. When we reach the point that fraud has gotten in the way of good people doing their jobs, it is time for something to be done.

In fact, there are a great many reasons that it’s time for something to be done. It was stated above that many of the addicts involved in these schemes might not see themselves as victims, but that’s assuming that the criminal activity begins and ends at health care fraud. This does not appear to be the case. There are halfway house managers who have allegedly sold drugs to their residents. There are female addicts who claim to have been sexually molested by doctors and other treatment officials in the course of their care. Some were so negatively affected that they decided never to return to treatment, even if they suffered a relapse. Some did not say no to these officials’ advances, because the offers of money and/or drugs were simply too much to pass up. In at least one extreme case, a woman was reportedly kept against her will at a halfway house where the operator was giving women drugs in return for their services as prostitutes. This is just what we have researched. We cannot imagine how far down the line these wrongdoings may go.

Florida Treatment Centers: The Good

For all the bad in the world, there is no shortage of doctors and other treatment center employees who truly care about both addicts and their families. (VGstockstudio/Shutterstock)

For all the bad in the world, there is no shortage of doctors and other treatment center employees who truly care about both addicts and their families. (VGstockstudio/Shutterstock)

After everything we have said above, it might be easy to gain a fairly negative view of the world. The fact that the above only pertains to Florida treatment centers is not much of a reassurance, since the Parity Act has essentially made these things possible in other states as well. But as noted earlier, the Parity Act is not to blame, nor is the recovery community at large. The crimes being committed at Florida treatment centers are the actions of individuals who found a way to take advantage of those less fortunate. The silver living is that, for each of these shady individuals, there are good-hearted people working overtime to undo their wrongs.

In fact, it is because of such people that we even know of the alleged crimes we have mentioned. Moles and headhunters have been uncovered by techs and other employees at the treatment centers they had tried to infiltrate. Having learned that shady business practices were at play in certain Florida treatment centers, these employees kept their eyes open for suspicious behavior. When they encountered it, they were able to get these moles to talk and to spill the details about their scams and how they were run. If not for such vigilant men and women, many of these crimes would likely have gone unreported. It may have been easy to simply mill about and fulfill their duties with minimal effort, but the sheer truth is that many employees at various Florida treatment centers cannot learn of wrongdoing in the health care system without doing their part to prevent it. They are in this to help people.

Many Florida treatment centers that have not been investigated by the federal authorities have come to light not only because of techs who uncovered their moles, but because of lawyers who represented the addicts they had molested or supplied with drugs. Let’s not forget that many patients enter rehabilitation because they truly wish to become sober. Some may be vulnerable, but others do not appreciate being lied to or coerced into using the substance that has so thoroughly ruined their lives. The BuzzFeed article from which much of this information was acquired mentions many addicts who were willing to tell their stories so that others would be able to avoid the facilities that have embraced illegal practices. And as another silver lining, many of these same addicts who were interviewed were able to find Florida treatment centers willing to take them in and provide them with proper care.

The inability of law enforcement to quell the rise of health care fraud is still an issue, but even this may be set to change in the coming years. Some may have read about our work with Operation HOPE in Scarborough, ME. This is a program by which cops are willing to provide amnesty to addicts who demonstrate the willingness to turn themselves in while also surrendering any drugs they may have in their possession. Upon doing so, these poor souls are assisted by local authorities in their search for treatment. Some have wound up in Florida treatment centers who are more than willing to work with law enforcement to ensure that addicts are treated fairly so that they may receive a level of care that can actually help them. Similar programs have popped up in other states, and it is our sincerest hope that more will begin to surface within the borders of the Sunshine State as well.

The point is that we should not discard the notion that Florida treatment centers have something to offer on the sole basis that a few of them have disgraced their oaths and done wrong by their patients. All treatment centers must make enough money to keep the lights on, but that does not mean they must be devoured by greed to the point that they will sacrifice their legal and ethical duties in the process. We have previously discussed the benefits of smaller treatment centers, such as their ability to charge less money and provide more personalized care. And while we stand by this, we should say that there are many larger Florida treatment centers still trying to accomplish similar goals. Furthermore, state-funded treatment centers may often be short-staffed and under-funded, but a fair number are still doing everything they can to ensure quality care.

In short, do not neglect to get the treatment you need just because some Florida treatment centers have taken to avarice. Many still have their hearts and minds in the right place. And if you need help finding them, we may be able to offer you some assistance.

What Amethyst Is Doing to Help

It is one of our primary goals at Amethyst to create a true sense of community among our patients and their families. (Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock)

It is one of our primary goals at Amethyst to create a true sense of community among our patients and their families. (Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock)

First of all, Amethyst is among the smaller Florida treatment centers mentioned above. We charge comparatively less than many larger facilities, and we take pride in personalizing our programs so that every addict who walks through our doors is able to receive the specific level of care that he or she requires. We also offer to help patients figure out their insurance plans, thereby minimizing the risk that they might run out of insurance midway through their stay. This lessens the number of addicts and alcoholics who fail to remain sober and wind up on the street, where they often become prey to headhunters who care little about their recovery. We may not do these things specifically to combat those who wish to profit from the suffering of others, but we do them because we care. And judging by the allegations being made against Florida treatment centers, addicts and alcoholics in the Sunshine State are in desperate need of people who care for their predicament.

We admittedly cannot help everyone. Amethyst only has so many beds, and there are limits to how many people we are able to accommodate. This is why we offer a free verification and placement program. Those who are unable to get the help they need within our facilities will still undergo verification to learn more about the specific nature of their addiction and how it has hurt them. We will then work with these patients in order to find a suitable facility that is able to work with them and accommodate their insurance plan. Needless to say, we do not send these patients off to treatment centers suspected of illegal practices. We are not in the habit of treating addiction as a mere tool for profit, and we put stock in our relationships with other treatment centers that we know to care about their patients.

In addition to everything above, we do what we can to ensure that the family is invested in the patient’s recovery as well. As we have said many times, a strong support network is vital to relapse prevention. Treatment centers that treat their patients like chattel will seldom care about the patient’s familial relationships. In fact, it is far more profitable for them to ensure that patients wind up back on the streets, isolated from any sort of friends or family upon whom they can lean when they fear they may be headed for a relapse.

A big part of keeping the family invested is A Mother’s Hope, which is a Facebook group we maintain for the parents (not just mothers) of recovering addicts and alcoholics. We also have a parent alumni program, which allows the family to recover in their own way. Through these two services, our hope is to build a recovery community that extends far past the addicts and alcoholics themselves. One of the most sickening aspects of the shady practices that we have described in this article is how these practices must affect the families of the addicts and alcoholics who have fallen prey to greedy and dishonest institutions. These families are often left with no idea as to what sort of harm has befallen their child, parent, spouse or sibling. It takes a special kind of apathy for a trusted institution to strike fear and worry into addicts and their families with such wanton disregard.

Amethyst offers a few other services as well. Through EMDR trauma therapy, we are able to help addicts and alcoholics overcome past experiences that may have influenced their addictions. Through our court liaison service, we are able to help addicts in legal trouble acquire the help they need in order to maintain their freedom so that they can continue to lead sober and happy lives. These are services that you will rarely find at Florida treatment centers whose goals revolve solely around making a profit. Such facilities need offer little more than a room to sleep in and a few group therapy sessions every week.

We certainly don’t blame you if some of the practices mentioned in this article have left a sour taste in your mouth. You may be left with a rather soiled view toward Florida treatment centers, and you are not alone—the shock and disgust you felt when reading about those practices was shared by each and every one of us when we first learned of them. But if you or someone you know is in need of help, we urge you to contact us as soon as possible. We will do our best to get you through the doors of a reputable institution that truly cares for its patients, be that Amethyst or one of the many other respectable and trustworthy treatment centers in our fine state. Because the only way to change the current state of things is to continue showing that addicts and alcoholics need to be treated with care. And that is precisely what we aim to do.

3 Comments

  1. Alicia

    The good? I’m a therapist in south Florida… There is no “good” even the good is motivated by money.

    Reply
    • Kieran Hair

      I’d have to respectfully yet firmly disagree. This is not the first treatment center I’ve encountered, as my recovery journey has not been a short one. I’ve seen the bad, but I’ve also seen a lot of good. Without that good, I doubt I’d be sober enough to put a sentence together today. To say that everyone among the countless managers, therapists, and nurses I’ve met was motivated by nothing but money is something I just cannot do. Not when I’ve spent the past few years watching people’s lives change for the better in front of my very eyes.

      Reply
      • Tracy

        I appreciate your perspective, Kieran. There’s a lot of financial motivation but that should not overshadow the good that is done for so many in need of help. Glad to hear your experience was positive. That is so encouraging.

        Reply

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