Drug and Alcohol Rehab Scams in California

It was disheartening to see the top story on CNN today (July 31st, 2013) referencing the scams orchestrated by California drug and alcohol rehabs. The actions perpetrated by these facilities tarnish the reputation of an industry that seeks to better the lives of those affected by addiction-related issues. Unfortunately, it is evident the inherent problem rests with treatment centers mixing money and recovery. And in California, the numbers are staggering. The figure on the right, taken from CNN's website, estimates how much taxpayer money was being funneled to treatment facilities engaging in questionable practices.

Recovery's Spirit

The spirit of recovery from drug addiction and alcoholism is founded upon altruistic actions. These actions arise from a genuine desire to help others, especially alcoholics and drug addicts in need of sobriety. 12 step recovery programs build upon this philosophy, espousing the idea that one alcoholic or drug addict can obtain and retain sobriety by passing along the gift of recovery to someone else. Alcoholics Anonymous, the first 12 step recovery organization, foresaw the mixing money and recovery problem. In response, they formulated traditions 6 and 7 which state:

“6. An A.A. group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the A.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.”

“7. Every A.A. group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.”

In addition, “12th step service work” (one alcoholic or drug addict attempts to “carry the message” to another alcoholic or drug addict still in active addition) strictly prohibited the messenger from receiving any form of financial compensation. This condition of performing 12th step service work ensured the work’s integrity and benevolence.

Money in the Treatment Industry

Obviously, Alcoholics Anonymous could not survive without money. To survive, this recovery organization draws all of its finances from its members.  Treatment centers, especially for-profit and state-funded facilities, would do well to consider incorporating some of these recovery principles into their business practices. Not all principles will be applicable, but some would alleviate the issues created by money’s involvement in recovery-related industries. 

I’m definitely biased because I completed Discovery Place’s residential recovery program and long-term recovery program (and now work for the organization too). I can say with complete confidence that our organization does an incredible job of removing the money problem from our mission of recovery from drug addiction and alcoholism. Clearly, some drug and alcohol rehabs today fall prey to, “problems of money, property and prestige.” Discovery Place, on the other hand, is nonprofit with no commissioned staff. No staff member owns any kind of recovery-related business, like a sober-living home. People work here because they genuinely care about, and live for, the gift of recovery. Maybe that’s why we are known for producing incredible outcomes.

Though I am saddened by the actions of these California drug and alcohol rehabs, I am grateful for organizations like Discovery Place that continue to pass along the gift of recovery in the absence of profit motive.

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