With the opioid crisis now at epidemic proportions, the need to deliver superior substance use disorder treatment has become profoundly important. Desperate for a solution, thousands of struggling patients and their families are finding themselves entangled in the broken system recently highlighted in the New York Times’ article on Southeast Florida’s substance use disorder treatment. As a leader in the field of addiction as well as a pioneer in Florida residential treatment, we were compelled to respond to the inherent dangers of the inferior sober homes and outpatient services described by the Times’ reporters.
The recovery landscape of Southeast Florida, a capital for leading-edge residential addiction programs, is now plagued by hundreds of substandard sober homes, intensive outpatients and Florida Model treatment centers which masquerade as residential treatment centers through false advertising and deceptive practices.
Over thirty years ago when Hanley Center opened its doors to those struggling with substance use disorders, it was one of the first residential treatment facilities of its kind in Southeast Florida. In the following years, other facilities followed our lead and a range of continuing care services slowly inundated our community. The “Florida Model” of treatment, initially designed to address specific clinical needs, has since been over utilized as a get-rich-quick, low-barrier-to-entry substitute for residential treatment. At best, families who think they are entrusting their loved one to the safety of residential care are getting ripped off, and at worst, they are unknowingly placing their loved one in a very dangerous situation. When appropriately and expertly delivered, the Florida Model is a highly effective clinical solution. Unfortunately, this model is not what has spread throughout Southeast Florida.
Today, the swelling rise of sober homes posing as residential care — many of them flop houses for drug users or mills for well-disguised insurance fraud — has tarnished the reputation of a once prosperous recovery community.
With more addiction and recovery services available than anywhere else in the world, the densely saturated Southeast Florida market has become increasingly known for unethical practices, particularly surrounding so-called sober homes which are tied to clinical services such as outpatient programs. Overwhelmingly, young men and women in desperate need of recovery are being lured to accept “bargain treatment” in place of residential services. In this deceptive system, licensed professionals induce consumers into their clinical programs by providing “free or deeply discounted sober living” to those who sign up. This misleading practice has repeatedly led patients and their families to believe that their loved one is receiving inpatient treatment when their services are anything but.
Ultimately, this corrupt practice profits from relapse by repeatedly cycling men and women into sober homes that do not meet the needs of their residents.
There is a staggering influx of facilities which return residents to lower levels of care when inpatient treatment could mean the difference between life and death. Outcomes repeatedly demonstrate the critical importance of longer-term treatment which includes detoxification and residential treatment prior to sober living and outpatient services. Accordingly, our professionals only recommend well-respected aftercare programs which honor this treatment continuum. Overseeing this process responsibly includes doing more than merely upholding state regulations that make kickbacks for referrals a criminal offense – it means taking a stand against programs that pay sober home owners “bonuses” for referring to their centers. This is illegal, it is unethical, and it does not prioritize the needs the patient.
As the battle to reclaim the integrity of treatment in Southeast Florida rages on, we will continue to support regulations designed to eradicate dangerous profit mills and their owners.
At Origins Behavioral HealthCare, we are dedicated to leading the industry in effective treatment systems that operate with quality, transparency and legal care. We urge other leaders to take action by aggressively advocating for outcomes-driven treatment models that promote superior standards of care. As providers with over thirty years of history in Florida alone, we want families to feel confident that their loved one is receiving quality programming, expertly delivered by dedicated specialists. Our organization is committed to supporting other like-minded professionals as we speak out against those who undermine the needs of those struggling to recover from the deadly disease of addiction.