Code of Ethics: 8 Questions to Guide your Referral Practices
When a potential client does not match a facility’s program or insurance requirements, it may seem easy to mindlessly hand them off to a placement service. However, this is a dangerous practice when we consider the potential effects for the person in crisis.
Unfortunately, we can no longer simply share the name of someone in the industry who can help because some of those we once trusted have proven themselves untrustworthy. Patient brokering is an infrequent yet ongoing practice amongst some referral partners who — incentivized by per-head commission payments — lure vulnerable clients into incompatible treatment facilities.
Surprised? Well, don’t be. Yes, it’s happening. Yes, it’s criminal. Yes, it has to stop. But for now, it’s out there and slowly eroding the reputation of our industry.
So, what do we do? How do treatment centers transfer a client who needs a different type of program than the one they offer without fear of being taken advantage of? How do we know we are working with honorable, ethical programs and marketing teams? We don’t. And we can’t. But we can be proactive.
Throughout the years, my team at 10,000 Beds has honed the ability to ethically refer our clients and ensure they are in good hands. We have partnered with treatment centers throughout the United States to provide scholarships for addiction treatment. It’s important to us that every person who reaches out to us receives a lifeline of some kind — if we can’t help with a scholarship, we can at the very least provide information, resources, a listening ear, and, with a little luck, a sense of hope.
At 10,000 Beds, we ask a series of questions when we first talk with a prospective treatment program partner. We want to know who they are, what they stand for, and how they work. My experience is that these questions, when answered appropriately, will help determine the viability and culture of a treatment program.
When you can’t place a prospective client at your facility, use these eight questions to guide them toward a program that you can stand behind.
What is the average length of stay for a client? If the average client stay is less than the prescribed program or the time allowed by insurance, it may be the case that clients are dissatisfied with the program or that clients are frequently duped by unethical marketers who do not accurately advertise the available services and amenities.
Do they provide detox? Detox is expensive so if a treatment facility does not provide this service, it’s important that the program does facilitate reasonably-priced and accessible detox options.
Do they continue care past the residential stage (comprehensive continuum of care)? It’s important to send a client to a facility that values lifelong recovery. A newly graduated client in recovery is susceptible to relapse and needs ongoing support such as therapy, check-ins and meetings. A reputable program will provide ongoing support and therapy; sober living opportunities through the facility or another partner program; and alumni services that encourage graduated patients to remain engaged in recovery via weekly, monthly, quarterly or semi-annual events.
Are the clinicians, therapists, physicians and psychiatrists licensed and experienced? Licensed staff members are critical components of a reputable program. While unlicensed counselors who have experienced addiction first hand can provide a listening ear and lead group sessions, it’s also important for a facility to employ staff who are appropriately trained to support someone in crisis who is trying to change their life. Board certified physicians and psychiatrists are also a medical necessity for people struggling with the physical, mental and emotional symptoms of addiction.
How many hours of clinical services are delivered in a day? Exercise, nature walks, and art therapy are all important to the healing process. What’s even more important is how often the client will have the opportunity to engage in one-on-one sessions and group therapy with a licensed clinician.
How do they involve family/loved ones in the treatment process? Is there a family program, support group, or therapy sessions? A good indicator of a treatment facility focused on the long-term success of their clients is one that brings loved ones into the fold before, during and after the treatment process.
How is communication monitored between the client and the outside world? In my opinion, restricted and monitored access to phones allows clients to heal without interference or diversion. If a facility restricts phone usage or has policies related to communication with the outside world, it’s a good indicator that the program values treatment success over factors that might jeopardize admissions.
Do they pay marketing fees to individual marketers not working as part of their marketing team? This is the tough one. Most treatment centers that pay unethical fees will lie and say they don’t. But it’s worth asking…it lets them know you’re aware and watching. Ask the facility which marketing companies they work with and check that these marketers do not make a profit that is any way tied to the number of clients the marketer places.
So what’s the bottom line? The majority of the treatment world is awesome. Many are my heroes in recovery. I salute them and respect them. The reality of these other types is not something we can ignore — it’s why guidelines like those I outlined above are necessary and why everyone must be vigilant. We cannot let unethical professionals become the new face of our industry.
This is an industry made up of the most giving, loving and caring people I’ve ever met – people with big hearts. They are the face of the addiction treatment industry.
Jean Krisle is the CEO & Founder of 10,000 Beds, Inc, a 501c3 nonprofit corporation with the mission of awarding 10,000 scholarships for addiction treatment by 2018. 10,000 Beds operates with a 100% volunteer staff and board. The organization is funded through individual donors; grants and foundations; and strategic partnerships with treatment centers throughout the United States who commit to providing at least one scholarship bed per year for a minimum of 30 days of treatment.