We are a family-owned and operated company. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center was founded in late 2013. In the just over 5 years that we have been open we are extremely proud of the work we do treating addiction and dual diagnosis in our local and regional area. We are not a huge company. We are a 65 bed extended care program that typically treats local DMV residents as well as patients from the east coast. We have no investors nor do we have multiple locations or own multiple facilities. We opened initially as an intensive outpatient (IOP) program to serve the local population with a plan to grow to an extended care treatment facility because we knew there was a vital need for a transitional model of treatment for the local population in the Mid-Atlantic area. We took the stance of building our program clinically, meaning investing in and growing our clinical staff and support staff rather than investing money into marketing. We believe that if an addiction treatment center does excellent clinical work then its reputation will speak for itself and its services will be sought out based on results and outcomes it achieves with patients and families. We have never spent money on online marketing like Google AdWords or Pay Per Click campaigns. We believe in relationship-building with the local, regional and national treatment, medical and clinical community as well as local community organizations. We are just a small player in what is now considered to be a $35 billion dollar industry. We are small and we may not have much of a voice in the clamor of the national media or in the macro-level conversations that take place within the industry.
However, in the little over 5 years since we opened, we have seen a sizeable shift in the way that the addiction treatment industry operates and we don’t like it. Perhaps it was a shift that was taking place before we opened? Perhaps not? But we’ve certainly seen it and felt it and we don’t like it at all. Sure, everyone knows of the unethical and often illegal issues taking place within the field. The media coverage of patient brokering, billing fraud and overcharging for urinalysis and other toxicology tests are well-known from both industry professionals as well as the general public. However, one of the most egregious offenses in what we consider unethical practices are those taking place within the marketing space within the addiction treatment field. The treatment centers that steal other facilities listings or information online and change contact information to reroute to their facilities and other black hat SEO marketing techniques. The rehabs that create call centers disguised to the consumer as objective treatment placement services whose only purpose is to route callers to their specific treatment center. The online treatment center “directories” that list tons of treatment centers online but don’t offer direct contact information and rather set up numbers that route to a call center who then in turn filter those calls to treatment centers that have paid the company a fee. The lead generation companies that spend millions on commercials where a doctor tells you addiction is a disease and you need to call now for help, taking in tons of calls daily and selling them to treatment centers that happily accept them, regardless of need or clinical appropriateness.
Now, in the grand scheme of business practices, such lead generation is not altogether unethical. However, the addiction treatment industry is not “selling” a plumbing service, an extended car warranty or a mortgage. We are working in healthcare, treating people and families in crisis that are dealing with a fatal illness. Never forget that this is life and death. That is not hyperbole. 175 people are dying each day simply from overdoses. Additionally, these people in need of treatment are dealing with complex issues and most of these call centers and lead generation companies are not equipped to clinically assess each caller for what treatment center or service would best fit their needs. Nor is it really their job to do so. They are lead generation companies whose purpose is to generate leads. They think “this service is great for attorneys and insurance companies, why can’t it work for addiction?” And it does, all too well. The lead generation companies are in the lead generation business. The real fault lies with the treatment centers who pay for these leads, concerned with placing “heads-in-beds” and are all too happy to let lead generation companies into the addiction treatment space. These rehabs don’t seemed at all concerned whether the treatment and therapeutic services they offer actually meet the clinical needs of each potential patient on the end of any call they receive. There have been numerous news stories recently of patients that have overdosed and died or committed suicide or died because a facility could not adequately meet their needs in centers that engage in such practices. It is never okay for a facility to admit a patient they are unable to properly care for based on their medical or psychiatric needs.
Making matters worse, the addiction treatment industry has seemingly let these issues continue without doing much about it. Tons of national conferences exist that allow both the lead generation companies, marketing companies and similar companies to attend, sponsor, speak as experts and network. Also allowed, and regularly only discussed in hushed tones, are the treatment centers that fund these practices, regularly paying for calls or leads or that utilize black hat marketing tactics. Their exhibit booths sitting right next to the booths of quality, ethical providers. Their management and leadership speaking as experts during sessions and workshops. At some point, taking a look from the outside, who could actually tell the difference between ethical and unethical, patient care-driven versus financially-driven?
Allowing such a platform not only gives oxygen to these perpetrators and allows these practices to continue and flourish, it also offers these organization an atmosphere and perception of legitimacy. It validates what they do. It puts them on the same playing field as the hard-working, ethical providers. The truth is, it is not the conferences place to ban or disallow these organizations to sponsor or attend and it is not their place to weed out who is good and who is bad. The conferences simply allow a platform for the industry. They simply allow for an open forum. It is us, as an industry, who has allowed it to continue. Perhaps it is because some facilities or organizations just worry about their own personal work and don’t concern themselves with how others operate? Perhaps it is out of the fear that quality, ethical operators have that if they don’t continue to attend they will lose business or branding or relationships? Perhaps honest, ethical operators don’t want to take a stand or speak up because their bottom line or census will be impacted? Perhaps it is an altogether different reason or reasons? And all of these are legitimate in some form or fashion, but it has finally reached a breaking point in our opinion. We as an organization have come to the conclusion that our attendance at these national conferences is directly or indirectly granting legitimacy and acceptance of these types of organizations and marketing practices and we simply cannot agree to do that moving forward. We have decided to put our money where our mouth is and say enough is enough for MARC. We cannot continue to support events that support unethical practices and gives these organizations carte blanche to market their services. We cannot continue to support events that allow treatment centers that engage in these practices carte blanche to act as if this type of behavior is standard practice for the industry and is considered acceptable.
This is not a stance we are taking to say we are better than anyone, nor are we trying to preach to anyone. We have made this decision for our own peace of mind, company mission, guiding principles and culture. Again, we are but a small treatment center with a little voice on the national stage. However, we feel that we have to do our part in taking a stand against an industry practice that is not only damaging the reputation of the addiction treatment field but also negatively impacting society and communities and families and, sometimes, even leading to the death of patients. We cannot and will not continue to be a part of it.
So we have made a decision. As of this moment Maryland Addiction Recovery Center will no longer attend national conferences that allow such organizations to sponsor, exhibit or speak as experts at their events. We cannot support a platform that allows these organizations and practices to be deemed acceptable. Instead, we will continue to operate within the paradigm that we find is both ethical and effective- creating meaningful and effective relationships with professionals, treatment centers and local communities. We will instead support small, independent, local events and symposiums. We will continue to support our local area and other local areas nationwide whose communities are suffering. Our dollars will no longer go to large conferences, not because we believe the conferences are to blame but because unfortunately they allow a platform for unethical and unscrupulous organizations to continue to go about their business like they are doing nothing wrong and are not negatively impacting our industry and the nation’s addiction crisis. We cannot justify spending time and resources to attend conferences that are no longer driven by education or attended by clinicians but rather are marketing conference where “marketers are marketing to marketers.” Instead, we will support those small, community-based events where actual clinicians are going for the purpose of learning and to be educated on better ways to treat patients. We believe events, conferences and symposiums that are education-driven are where our resources are better spent. Recently, the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP) put out an updated Code of Ethics and took a stand, saying they will enforce that code of ethics for their membership and for their conference. Our hope is that NAATP will do what they say they are going to do and as the professional society within the addiction treatment field will be a leader in taking action against those organizations that operate unethically. We hope NAATP takes action to revoke membership from those organizations who refuse to operate above board. Additionally, we hope that other conferences will see that this type of action is supported by ethical, quality providers and may themselves do something similar.
We do not believe this to be a call-to-action for the industry and we doubt that many people will read this or most will even care what a small treatment center is doing in regards to these issues. However, we believe in order for us to operate ethically and for us to sleep at night, we need to take action. We do not want to be an organization that complains about the industry and then takes no action to change it. Our hope, however, is that perhaps some other treatment centers and organizations will hear us and take a similar approach. Maybe, just maybe, when more good, ethical operators take a stand and stop attending these conferences, just a little of the oxygen will be taken away from the organizations that support these types of practices? Perhaps some of these lead generation companies and online resource guides and call centers will no longer be able to sell patients as leads? Perhaps some of the treatment centers that think it is okay to pay for patients will take a look in the mirror and realize that patients are not dollar signs and cannot be treated like such? Perhaps when more of the good organizations come together, it will either force the unethical and illegal operators to close their doors or make a decision to change their ways? Perhaps not? However, we have to do it for our own well-being, for the health of our own organization, for our own company mission of putting patient care first and for our own purpose of doing what we think is right. Hopefully some other treatment centers have a similar belief and a similar mission and will follow suit?
If you or someone you know is in need of help because of drug and/or alcohol abuse or addiction, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual diagnosis addiction treatment in the Mid-Atlantic area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (410) 773-0500 or email our team at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on all of our drug addiction and alcohol addiction services and recovery resources, please visit our web site at www.marylandaddictionrecovery.com.