Exploiting the Fear
Rondine Molinaro is Kaleidoscope’s Residential Services Lead.
Amy Dresner is an author, contributor to The Fix, and stand-up comedian who bases much of her material on her own recovery. Yesterday, she tweeted her anger about being approached by rehabs and ‘middle men’ who were offering her a percentage to refer people to their rehab. She called this practice ‘patientbrokering’.
An exposé by The Times in 2018 (https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/parasites-sell-addicts-to-clinics-for-20-000-aided-by-google-mv9hl2tm0) revealed some staggering facts about these so-called ‘middle men’ who state they aim to help people and families affected by drugs and alcohol use. What emerged was a highly unethical system whereby people and families would be ‘sold’ to the highest priced detox/rehab.
The process is as follows:
Distraught person/family desperately searches for ‘drug and alcohol rehab’ in Google. Several ‘Referral Centres’ pop up offering to source the most appropriate rehab/detox centre for the individual or their family. A referral and payment for the chosen rehab/detox is taken from the person or family, and 70% of the cost is actually given to the rehab/detox. This is because, for every referral passed to the rehab, the referral centre takes 30% as a ‘finder’s fee’. It doesn’t take much effort to work out that the more expensive the detox/rehab, the more commission the referral centre gets. We are not talking small money either; some people are paying upwards of £40K for treatment. Why? Fear. Families fear their loved ones’ addiction and its behaviour and are vulnerable because of it.
The other issue is that ethical rehabs/detox centres who try to advertise online are always pushed to the bottom of the search list on Google results because the referral finders are paying Google for prime advertising space. In America this process has been banned but it is still allowed to happen in the UK.
Sadly, more often than not, there will be a community drug and alcohol service in that person’s area that can offer non-residential or community treatment options completely free of charge, but are these options ever offered? There are many people and families who don’t realise that there is probably a free resource on their doorstep as they are more inclined to type the words ‘Drug and alcohol rehab’ into Google which then leads them straight into the hands of the middle men. I can’t help but think that if people accessed the free resources available as a first option, then the money they would otherwise have spent on rehab could have funded an educational course or a mortgage deposit.
For some, community treatment doesn’t work, and for these people, in-patient options may be the best or only option. Birchwood Treatment Centre, our detox unit in the Wirral, is a social enterprise that deliberately keeps our bed night prices low enough for people who can’t get funded through local authorities. We are an ethical treatment provider who refuses to use middle men. Surprisingly we’ve never been approached by referral agencies, unsurprisingly that’s probably because we are too cheap and their rate of commission would be far too low for them to bother with the likes of us.
Managing residential detox or rehab services can be stressful at times. Having one eye constantly on the occupancy rate in order to meet overheads is frustrating. It is easy to understand why some providers may be tempted by the offer of business from a referral agency in order to keep operating without considering the ethics. With both community and residential drug and alcohol treatment budgets being cut year on year throughout the UK, the worry is that an increasing number of desperate individuals and their families will be forced to self pay for treatment and will ultimately be encouraged to pay well over what they can realistically afford.
Follow Amy @AmyDresner for details of her recovery based books and articles featuring her insightful, funny and down to earth recovery stories.
You can follow Birchwood Treatment Centre here: @Birchwood_Kal