Paid to Care?…Addiction Treatment Marketers

addiction treatement

Negative news isn’t what I like to bring to the table.
That’s not who I am.
But this is a topic I have struggled to make sense of, and I’m going to talk about it here, in this space, today.

My Year in the Treatment Industry

It was an easy decision.
After my 78 days in treatment, I ended up moving to the town I found recovery in.
I didn’t want to be away from the security of my community. Secretly, I had fears that I wouldn’t make it unless I was surrounded by friends and roommates that came out of the same madness that I did.
There is a certain connection between people in recovery. It’s like you’ve spent your whole life feeling different and cast aside, and then you find hundreds of people who have lived your story. I’m not gonna lie, it’s refreshing, freeing, and extremely empowering to be around others who are actively pursuing recovery.

I moved back to Port St. Lucie, Florida for this reason. To be where I felt hope could be found.

I took a freelance position with the treatment center where I had once been a client. I became the Director of Outreach Marketing. I already owned my own web development company, so it was a simple addition to the rest of my client base. I handled their website, blog posts, created all their marketing materials, and best of all…I got to travel across the United States, speaking at recovery events and meeting others who were passionate about recovery.
What could be better?

The Dirty Underbelly of Addiction Recovery

I’m probably naive to a fault. Most of the time, I just worry about myself and what I’m doing. I loved my job, loved the people I worked with, and loved being a part of the solution.
And then I started to hear things about certain treatment centers, facility owners and marketers.
Weird things.

It actually began when I was in treatment. I would hear clients talking about marketers scouting them out at AA meetings, offering to pay them to switch treatment centers…even offering to pay them to relapse.
What?
It took a while for my brain to make sense of the dirty side of the recovery industry, but once I started piecing it all together I wanted to vomit. I guess at my age I should realize there is a dirty side to everything. Why? Because people are people, flawed and imperfect. But the truth is, I didn’t know. I didn’t see this one coming.

That’s why I am writing this article, because I want the parents to know. I want people who haven’t been in and out of the revolving doors of treatment centers to understand the unfortunate things that go on. I’m telling you this so you can be careful and really research the treatment facility you are planning on sending your loved one to. There is a game going on out there. It’s not pretty and it has nothing to do with “caring for those struggling.” In fact, it takes advantage of the most vulnerable of our society and tramples them underfoot like a terrible joke.

So here is the deal. This is what I know to be true.  I’ll lay it out the best I can.

Money Based Compassion

Some of the marketers, interventionists and individuals who are referring you or a loved one to a treatment center are actually getting paid up to $4,000 per head to do so. Is this compassion? Do these people actually care about the addict? I can’t judge that. I don’t know. But I will say this….If my pastor stood in front of a congregation and said, “You really need Jesus. You can accept Him today by coming to the front” and then later I learned that he was paid $500 for each person who came forward, it would tend to taint the experience a bit. I would wonder if he really cared or if he was just chasing money.

To complicate things even more, we in recovery are taught not to judge others. “Clean up your own side of the street” is a favorite quote in recovery, and it is a valid suggestion. We definitely won’t get anywhere by judging others, but that puts those in early recovery in a very interesting place, doesn’t it? If I was a person operating a shady operation, I could easily manipulate a lot of the clients just by reminding them how wonderful and freeing it was to “only worry about yourself.”

But my Bible tells me an interesting truth. Actually, it was Jesus who said this:

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.
Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)

It’s not my job to punish or point out specific people or organizations, and I will not do that here today. But, I definitely will give you the following information as food for thought because I believe everyone should be educated

Who Are You Talking To?

If you’re looking for help for yourself or a loved one and you reach out to a person that you found online, an interventionist, a peer support person, or a recovery advocate, please pay attention to what they are asking you. If the first question is, “Do you have insurance?” and the conversation is cut short if you do not, they might be a “body broker” just hunting for a person struggling with addiction who has insurance, so they can make a commission off of the situation. This is not to say that it’s wrong for a professional to inquire about your insurance, I am merely saying that there are definitely people who won’t continue to help you if you don’t have insurance.

Are options mentioned? If the individual who is helping you will only refer you to one specific treatment center, they may be making a commission or receiving some sort of compensation for placing you into treatment.

What Are The Laws?

The act of paying for referrals is tricky. In some instances it is completely illegal, while there are still loopholes used by treatment centers. Some places offer bonuses to their employees for each referral who has insurance and stays a certain number of days. Other rehab facilities offer certain employees a commission on cash deposits they collect from family members.

While some of these practices may be legal, I don’t think legal is always equal to “morally right.” I remember the details of a specific person who was in a hotel room shooting heroin. A few of his friends showed up to plead with him about going into treatment. He looked at them and said, “Are you just here because of the bonus you’ll get?”

Much of recovery is based on trust. These are people in desperate situations. They are lost and feel alone. I know, I’ve been there. I had been locked in my bedroom for days, lying in my own funk, with dried vomit stuck to my face and hair when I called my friend, Rhonda. She dropped everything and ran to me. She showed up and put me in the shower. She held me and told me she loved me. She assured me everything was going to be okay. I don’t have a clear recollection of the details of that day, but I know this. Rhonda did this because she loves me.

How would I feel today if I thought she received a check in the mail for helping me get to treatment? What kind of disappointment would I have in humanity if I thought that I was only worth the monetary value I could provide to others.

Silence is Agreement

We live in a sick and cynical world.
I try not to be a part of that.
I try to live above the thought of all of the evil because negativity can breed more negativity.

But then I think about the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.” And I cannot be silent.

These are our sons, our daughters, our husbands, wives and loved ones.
I think there is a fine line being walked here, and my only reason for writing this article is to raise awareness.

There are young adults leaving treatment centers hundreds of miles away from their homes (after they were flown in from out of state) and they are ending up on the streets. Yes, they left treatment on their own accord. It was often their own decision, but remember, they are fragile, broken members of our human family, and when they end up on the street so far from home they become vulnerable prey to so many situations. There are also marketers who look for these wandering souls, and if they have insurance, they will offer to split their “commission” with them if they will just go to a certain treatment center for X number of days.

Once their insurance runs out, their value to these parasitic individuals runs out as well.

This, of course, creates a multitude of problems, including having treatment centers that house two populations…People who checked in to get better and people who checked in to “do time” and make some money after 30 days. What does this do to the self-worth of this person? What does it do to the overall client morale in treatment? How many vulnerable clients “went back out” because they were not in a safe environment, but instead were in a place where there were people who were planning their escape?

Sure, I know….Someone is going to say, “Well, there are all kinds of people in the world. If you really want recovery, you’ll get through those situations. God will bring you through.”

This is true. He will.
He brought me through. I’m a”one and done.” I went to treatment once. I was serious. I learned. I have not relapsed and am coming up on two years clean. But I’m older. I still think about all of the young people I watched leaving treatment centers with just the clothes on their back.
Some are no longer alive.

I don’t have the answers and I don’t know what this article will accomplish, except possibly to shed light on a real problem.
A problem deeper than body brokering or making commissions for referrals.
It is a problem with humanity and the way we look at each other.
It is a problem with the value we place on lives.

It is the same spiritual malady that brought us to our knees in active addiction.
It just has a different mask.

Bottom line? If you’re looking for treatment, be careful.
Pray about your decision.
Let God guide you, because regardless of the facility, it is your Creator who does the delivering.

Are all marketers terrible? Absolutely not.
I was a marketer for a year and never received a dime of commission for helping struggling individuals find help.
Today I am not a marketer. I am a recovery advocate and a sponsor. I still help people find treatment.
My Maker pays me abundantly. xo

 

 

About Robin Bright

Hi. My name is Robin Bright. I'm a mom, author, part of The John Maxwell Team and a recovery advocate who struggled with the torment of addiction for over a decade. I still remember what it was like. I know the desperation and hollowness of addiction. The stories here are about our journey to the light. They are raw, authentic, vulnerable. We talk about getting free, staying free, and loving ourselves through the process. I used to believe I had become the worst version of myself. And then God introduced me to me —as only He can. It is my hope that you will use the resources found here to uncover your own true identity...the vision God had when He formed you. xo

16 Comments

  1. Lyle Fried

    Thank you for posting this. Unfortunately, it still seems to do little to show there are good ones out there. It only highlights what we all know – there are dirtbags who are getting away with murder. I mean that literally. To mean, the poor care some receive actually can, and does, lead to relapse, which sometimes results in death.

    Personally, I am employed in the industry, but I have actually spent more than I’ve earned for 3 years running in order to help as many people as possible. I don’t expect everyone to do that, but at least care about the people you help. If your only purpose is to make money, go sell cars.

    It is also unfortunate that the bad players are making it increasingly harder for the good guys to provide quality care. the actions of these profiteers has caused the insurance companies to cut back drastically and now people are not getting the coverage they need.

    Some people think this is a service that should be provided for free, and I wish it were possible to do so. Most people cannot afford truly high-quality treatment. It tales a team of medical professionals (doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists and more) to provide truly comprehensive care. Most of these professionals spent many year, sometimes decades, in school and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars learning how to be the very best at their craft. Yet they usually work for far less than others with similar educations. Personally, we do provide free care to at least 20% of our clients and I still wish we could do more. This may be why I make payments on my Kia while others get a new luxury car every year and live in luxurious homes.

    I know my rewards are stored up in heaven, not where rust and moths can eat away at them. However, our highly-trained and dedicated staff still have families who need to eat too. Some of the people “marketing” people out there are truly dirt who profit off the vulnerable. Others are actually professionals, either mental health professionals or marketing professionals – who deserve to get paid for the work they do. I worry that these professionals are only being tainted by the acts of the less scrupulous ones.

    I like your mention of people hanging up when you say you don’t have insurance. Perhaps that should be the test for all who seek treatment – tell them you don’t have any insurance, whether you do or not, and if they stay on the line, a conversation might be worthwhile.

    One very interesting note to me is that I saw this shared by a person I know works with body brokers who also commit insurance fraud and only send clients to a few places – all owned by the same people who provide sub-par care and kick people out when the insurance dollars stop. They are the problem – yet they share blogs like and pretend to be your friend and on your side – when if fact they are the very scum this blog addresses.

    I tried earlier to leave a note with more information, but it failed to load. So, if this is redundant, I apologize.

    1. Robin Bright Post author

      Lyle,

      Thanks for posting your thoughts, and yes…this article definitely does not shine a light on the good treatment centers. That was not the goal, but a great idea for another post. 🙂
      I think people in the industry assume that parents are aware there are unscrupulous people in the treatment industry, when in fact, I believe many have not given this possibility a second thought. If my child is in crisis, I don’t have time to think about the integrity of the people who tell me they want to help me. For most parents, entering the world of rehab is like trying to navigate some foreign land.
      I have heard the pleading voice of a crying parent on the phone saying, “Tell me what to do, Robin. Tell me what to do for my son and I’ll do it.”
      That’s a big responsibility.

      I hope to raise awareness to parents that not everyone is to be trusted. I want them to be prepared with their own mental questions and insights. I’d like to save a parent from having to learn by trial and error. They should know a red flag when they see one and they should be educated on the current condition of the industry.

      I do believe most doctors are good and most treatment centers are good, but everyone should do their homework.

      1. Sharon

        I am a very concerned parent. I need to personally speak with you about some questions I have about my son. He was supposed to come home from the treatment center yesterday and I received the phone call that his drug test came back positive for opiates and they said he admitted to using heroin. Now his dad and I have to pay out of our pockets to keep his insurance going for him to stay there because it ran out…my heart was crushed yesterday and now I’m wondering if I need to look into getting him home instead??? Please let me know if we can speak privately!!

        1. Robin Bright Post author

          Hello Sharon,

          I’d be more than happy to speak to you about your son and the decisions you are facing. My number is 239-440-6856.
          Much love,
          Robin

  2. Audrey Porter

    Thank you for speaking up.
    We often swim with piranhas when trying to do what we feel is morally right in a field so saturated with greed .

    1. Robin Bright Post author

      Beautifully put, Audrey, and yes we do.

  3. John Lombardi

    Well this is a very nice article on helping some of the parents. Thank you. But I do not like the mentions of Religious beliefs because I work a spiritual, not a religious program of recovery.

  4. Amy

    I am a 42 year old mother of 3. 18 year old son died in 2010, drug related, 13 year old daughter, and a 6 year old son. My drug of choice is opana ER. I started shooting them last year, but have been on opiates for 9 years.
    I want to quit. My mother beat cancer a few years ago, and has fibromyalgia. I beg her for her pills. I feel like a horrible person. My good friend went to the Watershed in FL and I have read so many horrible things about treatment centers since I started investigating that place. I have Medicaid, and have considered going to the local methadone clinic. I actually have an appointment for intake on Monday morning at 4am. I don’t really want to replace one drug w another. I have arthritis and scoliosis, so I do have genuine pain. I do not know what to do. I just kno I can not continue my life this way. Can u give me some advice?

    1. Robin Bright Post author

      Amy, First of all, you are not a horrible person. I have been where you are. There are treatment centers that do take Medicaid, and there are plenty of good treatment centers.
      If you do call the Watershed, and they can’t admit you, they will have you interview with Angelo who will provide you with other options for treatment. If you don’t speak to Angelo, you can ask for him directly and let him know that Robin Bright referred you to contact him.
      You are doing the next right thing and God will bless your steps. You will be free.

  5. Robb herr

    Thank you so much for this article. It really hit home with me as not to long ago I lived many of the things in it. After years of hardcore drug abuse I finally found myself in a treatment center in Florida, far away from family, with hardly any contact other than one 5 min phone call a day and mail. Many times in this facility it was brought to my attention how to make 100 bucks a day for 30 days once every six months. It was simple…All I had to do was relapse. It was very tempting as many of the patients there were on this revolving door plan and felt like recruitment for it and the insurance companies that payed the best benefits it was crazy. I witnessed so many of my friends hitting their thirty day milestone of recovery only to check out with three grand, excited to go get their relapse fix. It was a definite downer for me to think, “Man, I’m here fighting to stay sober and everyday watching people skip off out the door.” I knew what was on their mind and had to fight constantly to not end up like them. Although the treatment facility itself did not support it, they knew about it and did nothing. Maybe there was nothing they could do but watch familiar faces arriving and leaving only to return shortly in one vicious cycle. I really wish something could be done. I saw many people that actually came for sobriety find a measure of financial stability through purposeful relapse. I am happy to say that on the 21st of this month I celebrated 17 months clean and sober and credit God’s grace, the love of my wife, and sheer determination. It can be done but as you mentioned for those with “good insurance” our salesman-marketer, as I call him, set me up in a so called Christian rehab facility and a second stage half way house that ended up unsupervised, riddled with drugs, and one death from overdose that I unfortunately found and had to clean the mess up afterword. I left two days later and one week later the house closed down leaving 7 recovering addict homeless in a high drug problem area in Miami. I hope this was a very untypical sequence of events, however as you said please be very careful and do more research before you drop your loved one off at ANY program. Although I’m positive many very good ones exist, there are MANY bad.
    Thank you for your article and time.
    Robb Herr

    1. Robin Bright Post author

      I can’t even…
      Reading your comment makes my head swim. I know this is all still going on and so many parents and families of addicts are shelling out large sums of money (along with the insurance money) to get their loved ones into these treatment centers. The homeless population of West Palm from displaced individuals who relocated for recovery is staggering. I’d like to see the actual statistics, but there is no way to really get that.
      People in recovery and people in active addiction. These are one of the most vulnerable people groups. They are right up there with the elderly and the unborn. They need PROTECTION. My time in recovery was definitely sprinkled with brief meetings and conversations with people who were playing the relapse game, but the thing here is….the addict is the victim and although they feel like they are “scamming the system” and becoming financially stable, they are getting sicker and sicker. They are left to feel broken, used, and only loved for the insurance money they could provide someone else. The cycle perpetrates sickness on all counts, to all people, on all sides.
      I would love to see this industry cleaned up and will do my best to educate parents and families, but the truth is…there are people who prey on the weak in every industry. This is nothing new. It’s just that some of us who have found recovery for ourselves have decided not to let our brothers and sisters suffer while we remain silent.
      If the stigma of addiction is being faced, then the corruption of the industry must be faced as well. Thank you for your comment. Much love.

  6. Dan Workman

    Robin, you know how I feel about you. You know how much I trust and adore you. I can’t say how much I appreciate this post as I’ve read it many times.

    Let me give you a hypothetical of my own…

    Let’s imagine you’re a guy who struggled with addiction for years. Day in and day out you lived the misery of heroin addiction. You finally found it in yourself to get help but your family always said, “we can’t afford rehab.”

    So, instead you hole up in a dingy motel with $18 worth of Imodium and Gatorade to spend the next 5 days puking, sweating and shitting your pants.

    Somehow you survive and muster the courage to share your story. Suddenly people are responding. Something in your experience resonates with them. Despite your “short” amount of clean time and crippling self-doubt, people are reaching to you for advice, support and hope. You work your day job 12 hours a day then spend 8 hours at home trying to be that hope.

    Your day job suffers. You’re burning the candle at both ends. You can literally watch yourself aging over the period of a few months.

    But you’ve NEVER experienced passion like this. You’ve never felt more driven or fulfilled.

    Then one day, a miracle happens! Somebody approaches you and says that not only can you quit your day job, but you can make a GOOD living by doing exactly what you’ve already been doing!!

    Did I just win the fucking lottery??? Am I dreaming?! I can help people ALL DAY and call myself whatever I want on my business cards?? You’re going to fly me places and pay for my hotels??

    Your track-marks just became your résumé. You think about all the jobs you’ve been turned down for because of that little “YES” box that looks next to “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?”

    You are on cloud-fucking-nine. You get to tour the facility yourself and it is BEAUTIFUL! You experience a twinge of jealousy at the cozy accommodations as compared to your own detox situation.

    But something starts to nag at you. You want to talk about how many people will be helped but the conversation always seems to gravitate toward money.

    “If I ever treat someone differently or offer them less help because of their insurance status, I will hang up my spurs and go back to swinging a hammer.”

    You remind yourself of these things in the mirror every day, but then something happens to plant a seed of doubt. You walk down the streets of South Florida and there are rehabs as far as the eye can see. You have a panic attack. The emails and messages keep flooding in.

    “My son needs help!! Here is his insurance card! Please do something!! WE TRUST YOU!!”

    Suddenly you are aware of the horrifically daunting task the family members and loved ones are facing.

    It feels like choosing a church. The contact sits on your desk waiting for your signature. Bills are piled up. The ex-wife is badgering you about child support…

    But trust… TRUST is something you haven’t had in years. You cannot betray it. You cannot betray them. People are starving to death and there are McDonald’s down both sides of the street as far as the eye can see. They look identical, but you know some make their burgers with Kobe Beef and some use rancid dog meat.

    You feel paralyzed. You are sitting on a pile of insurance cards but realize that your trust could mean sobriety or death for someone.

    You can only take someone so far. You have to be able to pass them off to someone you trust to continue the process of care.

    You have to be able to sleep the 4 hours a night when you are working with the other 92% of people who don’t have insurance. You have to be able to pay your bills and look your daughters in the eye when they say, “daddy, who did you help today?”

    Rehabs are a $37 BILLION industry. There are certainly bad apples and my internal jury is still out on the next course of action.

    But regardless of your position, you must never lie. You can hunt for the facility that will give you a W-2 and agree to hire you for a flat salary. You can stand tall and proud knowing that you are a reflection of the people you work with and they are a reflection of you. You can look a family in the eye and say, “I am here for whatever you need. This is a place I feel good about but if it isn’t the right fit, let’s look for a place that is. My pay is NOT contingent upon how many people I send to a particular facility.”

    Or… at least you HOPE that is what will happen. If it doesn’t then you adapt and find another way to make a living and keep trying to help as many people as you can in your free time.

    At the end of the day, ask yourself… “how much is my integrity worth?”

    1. Robin Bright Post author

      Dan,

      I honestly and wholeheartedly believe that the God in you is going to continue to guide you in your passion for helping others. I trust Him to guide me.
      You are extremely uncomfortable in situations that lack integrity. Please stay that way. The industry needs you. I need you. I’m so glad to know you!
      Let’s do a co-authored post soon! I want to interview you about your detox experience and the days that led up to it.
      Much respect and love to you, my wonderful friend!
      xo

      1. Dan Workman

        I’m all over that!! Let me know what approach you want to take.

        1. Robin Bright Post author

          I will contact you this week about it. I am just finishing up an eBook for the site. xo

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