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Body Brokering in Addiction Treatment (Part 1)

The Addictive (and illegal) Behavior of Rehab Owners

In the continuously evolving world of addiction treatment new addictions arise daily. You may automatically think of the the rising opioid epidemic, addiction to mass media online gaming, or other compulsive behaviors now frequent on the horizon. Yet, the new “secret sin” in the world of addiction treatment is known as “body brokering” and instead of it being a problem of the addict, it is the treatment owners who are at fault.

Body brokering is an intentional behavior of many treatment center owners trying to make a fast buck while taking advantage unknowing folks struggling with substance use disorders and other addictions.

Body brokering is a compromise of ethics (and often law) where money exchanges hands of treatment centers for leads to viable clients for patients with good PPO insurance. This often results in large sums being earned by “brokers” before the addicted person ever sees the inside of a treatment center. “Brokering bodies” is a money-making machine with little to no concern as to if a client ever experiences a day of sobriety.

Clients with viable insurance plans are hot commodities. With a national average cost of $27,500 a month for 28 days of treatment, insurance leaves many treatment center owners racking up large sums of cash. These owners are often driving lavish cars while their staff works for low wages and few clients ever gain sobriety.

As a master’s level treatment counselor I like most of my colleagues, seek work with hoping it will add to my career and aid in helping kill the opioid crisis faced in our country. Like other professionals, I seek out web sites, use social networking and spend countless hours filling out online applications all in an effort to land a position at an ethical company. Yet, what I have found instead are positions that have left me feeling like I need a shower at the end of the day from jobs that will never see the light of day on my resume for fear of the negative professional association.

Body-brokering manifests in many ways. I recall one time where I sat with pen and notepad in hand during an initial counseling session. During the course of the session the unknowing client shared how “great it was” that the clinic owners found him at an out of state detox, paid for his flight and his insurance so he could get treatment. I nearly fell off my chair and struggled to keep a non-emotional face at hearing this news as it is illegal to pay for someone’s healthcare if you stand to reap monetary benefits. Unfortunately, what happens is after 30 days of treatment, these unsuspecting clients are often kicked out when the insurance stops paying and they are tossed to the curb…literally.

Clinicians like myself often hold more than one position to avoid holes in our resumes to account for any potential lapses of employment when we discover these internal indiscretions and run for the hills not wanting any connection or professional affiliation with the company. So frequent are these types of scenarios the treatment center owners are often more addicted to fraud and the cash than helping anyone.

So what are ethical clinicians, workers, and potential clients to do in a corrupt industry where they desire to work and/or seek help?

Do your research. Begin with checking the licensure of the facility. Are they appropriately credentialed for your state? Do they have the properly licensed staff to run the business? Do they maintain a Joint Commission’s, CARF (check which agencies govern in your state) or other secondary accreditation that helps ensure ethics? Are there complaints filed for fraud on the company? How long have they been in business?

In this industry length of time in business matters as does the “word on the street” so ask around. I have seen one too many places where recently sober and other people with money think “they too” can open a treatment center, cut corners and make a buck.

Seek out others who have found successful treatment or a positive work experience. And do not be afraid to report or call out illegal activities if you come across them. As they say in recovery “you are as sick as your secrets” and if you hide your experience this pandemic of toxic treatment centers will continue to spread. Where I reside in Southern California body-brokering is the norm with viable healthy treatment centers being few and far between and trying to keep their doors open.

But fret not, there are good and ethical treatment centers with strong client care, medical protocols, and caring staff that actually help a lot of folks on a daily basis.

If you are struggling with an addictive disorder DO NOT USE random referral lines or 800 numbers. Be sure to contact an ethical facility directly for help or contact SAMHSA for an licensed referral.

Have you experienced body brokering as a professional or a client? Share your comment below so we can put an end to this illegal addictive behavior of some treatment owners.

Part 2:

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