Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans have become eligible for mental health services and substance abuse treatment programs.
The downside to this positive development is that the increased demand for such services has brought with it a proliferation of rehab facilities and recovery homes that fail to measure up to legal and ethical standards.
One member of the recovery community, Novus Medical Detox Center of New Port Richey, Florida, has called for increased oversight and industry standardization to ensure patient safety and a high level of care.
Prevalent in Florida
Violations in the industry are particularly prevalent in Florida. Recently, law enforcement authorities raided two operations in South Florida under suspicion of improper billing practices, insurance fraud and/or patient brokering.
Industry watchdogs say that standardization would deter and put out of business these types of profit-driven facilities, which they say “largely warehouse individuals in order to collect rent and insurance payments.”
John Lehman, president of the Florida Association of Recovery Residences, denounced what he sees as predatory practices. He notes that one facility advertised free rent, gym memberships and transportation for would-be residents in early recovery. “Basically, your insurance card was your American Express card,” he said.
State oversight proposed
Legislation has been introduced in the Florida Legislature to provide state oversight of alcohol and drug treatment facilities. The bill aims to establish voluntary certification for recovery residences, or “sober homes,” and would require operators to undergo a background check.
The measure also calls for a nonprofit organization to establish the certification process, provide training for sober-home owners and staff, and do onsite inspections once a year. Upon implementation of the program, Florida drug rehab facilities would be required to refer their patients to certified sober homes only.
Bryn Wesch of Novus Medical Detox Center is encouraged by the recent legislative efforts but cautions that unethical addiction service providers remain a problem that needs a solution. “While expanded access to substance abuse treatment programs is an important and welcome development, it’s critical to ensure that patients are receiving a reliable standard of care,” Wesch said. “The recent government raids have demonstrated that a number of those unlicensed providers engage in unethical and criminal activities, suggesting that they’re motivated more by profits than the well-being of their patients.”
Wesch maintains that increased oversight and industry standardization are essential to ensure patient safety and high-quality treatment programs. Until relevant legislation and enforcement are implemented, she urges individuals seeking addiction services to proactively research treatment centers and choose a licensed and accredited facility with a proven history of successful outcomes.