The Ethics of Drug and Alcohol Treatment

It’s no secret that the treatment industry is big business. Addiction is still on the rise, and there are countless individuals seeking help, even as we write this. Unfortunately, the ethics of drug and alcohol treatment centers are not always correct; to say the least. As a facility that upholds the best standard of care that we can, we’re happy to be in a position to educate you on some of the unethical practices that are currently happening inside of the treatment industry. The saddest part of these practices is that the clients are the ones harmed, and the client’s face the consequences far more than the treatment center’s themselves. There have been arrests, and there’s been awareness spread, but the industry at large lacks major reform. Here’s a list of terms and unethical practices to be aware of:

Bed Vouchers

“Bed Voucher” is a term to describe an outpatient facility “paying” for a clients bed at a sober living. The outpatient facility can bill insurance, and sober livings can not, so bed vouchers describe a vast difference between the two facilities. This typically happens when the sober living also owns or is in a partnership with the outpatient program. (We’ll describe more in the next section about how these outpatient facilities can overcharge insurance to cover these costs.) Bed vouchers aren’t necessarily illegal, yet they are considered unethical by the majority of the treatment industry. They’re considered unethical because the client’s treatment becomes a matter of the dollar, and not their life.

Insurance Fraud / Improper Billing

There have been many cases of facilities overcharging, and abusing the insurance companies pay out methods. The most common practice is through urine tests. This works by a facility urine testing an outrageous amount of times and then billing the insurance companies for far more than the cost of the tests. This money is used for either two things, 1) increasing the profits of the business and 2) paying out a sober living for a “bed voucher.”

Patient / “Body” Brokering

When a facility views a client as a paycheck, this opens up to a series of possible consequences. The most alarming is “body brokering.” This is a practice where people literally sell “leads” or “individuals” to different treatment centers because they have a good insurance plan. There are even countless cases where the client gets paid to relapse so that they can re-bill the insurance once again. This is obviously unethical, because now the treatment of the client becomes strictly about the dollar provided, and their own lively hood is actually harmed in the pursuit of a paycheck. These clients harmed by “body brokering” are victims to greed, and more often than not they end up in facilities that aren’t equipped to treat addiction at all, but they’re merely equipped to bill insurance.

“Body Snatchers”

A less common practice, happened numerous times at a Florida facility and is likely still happening around the nation today. This is a practice where people find female clients inside of the rooms of AA, pay them to relapse, and then take them to a treatment center. While these people are billing these victim’s insurance plan, they throw them into a prostitution ring disguised as a treatment center. Now, these facilities are causing serious mental health problems, provoking serious trauma, and committing insurance fraud all in synchronicity.

Unskilled / Newly Sober Staffing

There’s no law that you cannot employ someone with less than 90 days sober at a treatment facility, but this gets sticky because one’s understanding of recovery should dramatically increase over the length of their sobriety. It’s not that people with a few months sober have nothing to offer, but it’s incredibly hard to transmit a message of lengthy recovery without having done it yourself.

Improper Credentials

Depending on the type of facility, there are certain credentials required for someone to perform different tasks with a level of competence. These credentials, however, aren’t always enforced.

Sexual Misconduct

Unfortunately, one of the most prevalent issues in the recovery world is sexual misconduct. People are vulnerable in early recovery, and staff and other residents have prayed on this vulnerability time and time again. There are a few infamous cases of people being charged with years of jail time because the sexual misconduct was so unethical. This misconduct disrupts the recovery of the victim and breaks the trust that they have for the treatment world, which ultimately inhibits them from finding the help they originally set out for elsewhere.

Client Bribery

Because of the different rates of insurance payouts, clients are often bribed to go to certain treatment options. Client bribery can take the form of cash payouts, flight purchases, and even items given to incentivize the client to enter a certain facility. These facilities are really just leveraging the clients to be able to bill their insurance plan, so their motive isn’t to help the individual overcome their struggle with addiction. There are many places that utilize bribery in many forms, and the clinicians aren’t always in the loop with these practices, so there are occasions where the client gets quality care by happenstance.

Inauthentic Online Marketing Practices

There are hundreds, if not thousands of websites designed to capture calls and then sell the leads to other treatment centers, causing the ethics of drug and alcohol treatment centers to come into question. They are not even affiliated with the treatment centers on their website, and they target different location searches on google. For example, they target different google searches such as “Torrance drug rehabs” and then they list a bunch of unaffiliated treatment centers near that area. From here, they have multiple messages to call an 800 number and they ultimately check benefits and sell the leads to somewhere else. These websites aren’t designed to help people, and they even hurt the treatment centers they pretend to be affiliated with.

HIPPA / Confidentiality Agreements

There are strict laws in place to protect the identity of people in certain treatment settings, and unfortunately, these laws aren’t followed by some of the staff at treatment centers. Hippa procedures are incredibly clear, and strict, and the client’s confidentiality is put in jeopardy when these procedures aren’t followed accurately.

People often think that sending a loved one to treatment is as simple as picking the first one off google, but quality care isn’t always the best marketed. This article isn’t designed to say that ALL ethics of drug and alcohol treatment centers are unethical, but more designed to showcase the practices that happen/have happened in the treatment industry to date. Please consult with people you trust, and people who have experience in the treatment world before you risk sending a loved one to a facility that takes advantage of their condition, and your pocketbook.

Last Updated on May 24, 2022


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