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[ Opinion ]

“There’s Too Many Treatment Centers”

“How do I make a decision!? There are simply too many treatment centers to choose from for my brother, besides, each one I call tells me reasons why they are the best!”

As the Director of Admissions at a Substance Abuse/Mental Health Treatment Facility, the phrase above is the most common complaint I hear from families seeking treatment for their loved one. Can I blame them though? Hardly. I can only imagine the frustration a loved one has to endure throughout the treatment center shopping process. Like most people these days, their search starts online which seems to only make matters worse. They cycle through the top ten search results (which typically are spots that these treatment centers pay big bucks for using internet marketing firms), call the attached 800 numbers to each place’s website, and get stuck in a game of high pressure sales tactics by an admissions representative who’s one goal is to make a bonus off your unsuspecting tush. Each place they call sounds better than the next. “We offer neuromodulation that can, potentially, cure your son of his addiction.” “We offer weekly massages to help keep your daughter relaxed while they recover in paradise.” “Our prestigious facility has a success rate of 95%!” How does someone possibly choose? With the number of “shady” treatment centers opening up at an exponential rate, how does one know they aren’t being sold a bill of goods? 

Families need guidance. Period. A place to go that can provide the “shopper” with some insight into the Treatment Center world. I’ve started with the hopes of it, one day, becoming that place but for now, I’d like to offer some tips here in an attempt to give families some ammo during the treatment center “shopping” process. 

1) There is no such thing as an accurate “Success Rate” of a Treatment Center

If you call a facility and they start off by telling you they have a success rate of XX%, they are lying and you should hang up immediately. Think about it this way, in order to get an accurate success rate, the facility must be able to keep in contact with every single person that goes through their facility. NOT POSSIBLE. Many patients either change their phone numbers/emails, do not answer the phone, have their phones shut off, etc… They can call and leave voicemail after voicemail to no avail. How do I know this? I’ve tried it. Part of my job is being in charge of the Alumni Community at my place of employment. It is nearly an impossible task to keep track of everyone that has gone through any one specific program. Of course, many people will answer the phone to report on the status of their recovery but how can anyone even prove that what they are saying is true? Relapsing is an embarrassing event that takes courage to admit and can be very difficult to hone up to. Another thing to consider is the fact that “success” is not something that can be easily defined in the addiction field. What is successful to one person may be a total failure to another. For example, one person may consider being totally abstinent from drugs for 5 years but having the occasional beer is a great success, while many would consider an occasional beer to be an occasional relapse or “failure”.

On top of all that, the national success rate for overcoming addiction is somewhere in the 3%* range, so if a treatment center is telling you they have a success rate of 95% something is a little off. 

If I’m wrong about this, I am open to being provided proof of an accurate “success rate” and the process that lead to it but I don’t expect to see that anytime soon.

*That percentage changes regularly but it usually floats between 3%-10% and is measure on a one year of total abstinence from all mood/mind altering substances basis. Even that, in my opinion, doesn’t measure success as much as displaying an increase in quality of life would.

2) The best way to find a treatment facility is by personal referral

Finding a suitable treatment center for your loved one online is like playing a game of eenie meanie miney mo. In my experience, the most efficient way of finding a good treatment center for your loved one is through personal referral with the best source, of course, being alumni from a treatment program. Chances are you know someone who knows someone who’s brother’s girlfriend’s sister went to treatment for her drug addiction. Ask them how their experience was. Did they enjoy it? Are they still clean today? Did they build a strong foundation to lay their recovery upon? If they aren’t still clean, is it because they didn’t gain anything from treatment or because they didn’t take the suggestions for aftercare the treatment center offered? These are all valid questions to ask that can hopefully get you a clear picture of what their experience was like. If they didn’t have a good experience, ask if they’ve heard of any facilities that are worth mentioning. Maybe they know someone else who got clean elsewhere that can make a recommendation. 

If you are concerned about violating your loved one’s privacy by asking people you know, try asking a local clinician. Anything discussed with a licensed or certified clinician is protected by HIPPA laws so no need to worry there. Normally, it is a the duty of any therapist to make a proper referral for someone in need and they will usually have 2 or 3 go-to places for any situation. If not, they may know a place or have a friend who works in the field that can give you accurate guidance on the right place to choose. 

Bottom line, It can’t hurt to ask. Plus your outcome is more likely to be a favorable one as opposed to trusting the pretty ad for a “luxury” treatment center that pops up on when you search “Drug Rehab”.

3) Ask to speak to the Clinical Director

The admissions department at treatment center is created to accomplish one ultimate goal: Fill beds. There is nothing wrong with that, though. Clinicians rarely have the time to work with their patients and field incoming calls. The admissions department is the first line of contact you will make at any treatment center and many admissions workers are hard working, honest people with the intention of helping you get a better understanding of the program they represent. If you wish to move forward, they will then typically perform a pre-screen to evaluate appropriateness and then make arrangements for your loved one to admit. Unfortunately though, the reality has become that many disreputable treatment centers don’t believe that honesty is the best policy. As more and more places pop up on every street corner with the hopes of wringing out people’s insurance policies to make a quick buck, it has become popular for admissions departments to use what I like to call the “get them in the door no-matter what policy” in order to keep up with the thick competition. 

*Helpful tip: If a place is offering to buy your loved one something in exchange for them admitting, that is called enticement and is highly illegal. (I’ve even heard of someone buying a patient a new pair of shoes if they chose to admit to the program they represent.) These places have bad intentions and will most likely have an even worse clinical program. 

A good way to make sure you are not being told whatever it is they think you want to hear about the program is to ask to speak to the Clinical Director. If it makes you feel more comfortable you can say “I’d like to speak to the Clinical Director before I make my decision so I can have a better understanding of the specific services your program offers.” Clinical Directors are typically Master’s level or Doctorate level therapists, who hopefully are ethical and have the patient’s best interest in mind. In other words, they are less likely to lie to you about services offered at their respective facility A facility with nothing to hide should have no issue in arranging a talk between you and their Clinical Director. If the short chat cannot be arranged, I suggest you look elsewhere for treatment.

-Blake C. –

Treatment Candor: Honest, Unbiased Advice on the Treatment World/ Messages of Inspiration for Those in Need of It.