Recovery hustlers

51T1SeT4LRL._SX345_BO1,204,203,200_There’s more attention on addiction, treatment and recovery than there has ever been. It’s a good thing that brings some bad things. One of the bad things is the emergence of recovery hustlers. Some are exploiting it as an opportunity for profit and others are exploiting it as an opportunity for attention.

NPR just ran a story on big investors that are seeing big financial opportunities in addiction treatment, but is it good for patients?

Linda Rosenberg, president of the National Council on Behavioral Health, which represents non-profit addiction treatment programs, worries that private investors are too focused on the profitable inpatient beds and will neglect the services that help patients re-enter society.

“After rehab, you come back to your family and your family knows very little,” Rosenberg says. “You need a job, you need health insurance, you need medication-assisted treatment for addiction, you need counseling.”

She says there’s very little private investment in all that.

“I think that’s the biggest danger,” she says.

What’s the difference between a hustler and provider? Hustlers focus on profit over care.

I recently worked with a man who had been in one of these very expensive programs for months and said that, while in treatment, he expressed concern about his unemployment and insurance running out. They told his to not worry about that and to make recovery his priority. Once his insurance ran out, they discharged him. He was thousands of miles from home and relapsed on his way back. I contacted the program to see if they could offer him any help. They said they would not provide un-reimbursed services and suggested that he contact the alumni association for peer support. They said that they were trying to develop relationships with sober housing providers. I ended up putting him in touch with our intake staff to get on our scholarship wait list. He ended up going with Salvation Army because he could get in immediately. (Especially unfortunate, because he’s gay and not religious and his only option was a religious outreach.)

In that NPR story, the president of a small multi-site provider share his experience of exploring a sale to a larger provider/investor.

And that’s exactly what Tamasi found.

When he met with the first group of investors, he learned they only wanted to buy Gosnold’s money-making programs — inpatient detox and rehab, “A detox setting or a rehab program, they have a much wider stream of where revenue can come from,” Tamasi tells Shots. “They’re covered by insurance, people are willing to pay for it if they have the resources to pay for it.”

The investors didn’t want the prevention programs, the long-term care or the school-based programs. They didn’t want to invest in the recovery managers that help people get back on their feet once they get out of rehab.

But Tamasi thinks those things are important, so he didn’t sell.

“They’re almost like investments that a community-minded provider would make in order to do the things that they think the community could use,” he says

4 thoughts on “Recovery hustlers

  1. Good Job, jason. You are right on but could go on and on with the types and differences in the wide variety of corrupt, unethical, illegal and uncaring treatment programs that have become the norm, in this day and age. Knowing that potential patients, and their families, have no idea that anyone can start a treatment program or become an “addiction counselor” or “life coach”, they are, likely, to communicate with a smooth talking call center salesmen, who was fired from his job selling cars and, now, makes a commission based living telling the caller whatever it takes to get them to send in the money, get on the plane, produce those body fluids for their contracted tox lab and, never know that the treatment provider paid $8,000 for their body. Than, when they enter that “non-medical detox” program that pumps them full of controlled meds for three days, followed by complete discontinuance, they are told that they have been detoxed. Congratulations, now you can come into our program, but don’t forget to give us a drug test everyday, and we will take you to AA/NA mtgs. the gym, yoga, horse touching or groups run by interns that are unpaid and untrained but need to acquire hours to complete their alphabet soup credentialing assn. If they have a seizure, don’t expect that 911 will be called because they don’t want to draw attention to their operation, so untrained staff, will tell them that it is part of the detox and they will be fine. When they get home, they may, very well, find a huge bill to cover the dates of service that they had been told that their insurance company had authorized, but if it is not paid, they will be turned over to collections by our loving program. Whether it is an inpatient, residential, sober living house or Florida model structure, it is very lucrative for the owners. Unfortunately, many of the owners are folks that have seen the enormous amounts made by their peers in 12 step meetings and decided that they are going to open their own house. The Federal Fair Housing Act protects them from any review by governmental or law enforcement. That is the nature of most of the programs that I see operating in California. It is time for accrediting bodies and the state to step up and bring the full force of the state’s laws down on these folks before more and more will die. Thanks for addressing the elephant that has been hanging out for so long. While I love elephants, I hate the one that has taken up residency in our field that was designed to assist the hopless to find hope, not to line the pockets of the greedy and unethical.


  2. I am proud of my employer, a non profit SUD provider. Prior to Medicaid expansion this organization provided greater than $250,000 in unreimbursed services for many years. Post Medicaid expansion this activity is down by about 50%. Our leadership refuses to allow “ability to pay ” determine whether we provide services.


  3. I would love to see the drug companies be made responsible for free unlimited detox and recovery support. Anthony Bordain had an interview with a Dr and how they were fed information from drug companies saying that the opioid was not addictive… Lives ruined


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