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