When people think of South Florida, they think sun, sand, food, and Miami. However, over the last decade, Palm Beach County has become known as the Rehab Capitol of the World, with literally hundreds of treatment centers, halfway houses, sober livings, and IOP programs in just a few square miles of each other, especially in one little coastal town, Delray Beach.
It’s been all over the news for the last few years. The opioid epidemic, the insurance market scams, the billions of dollars made by the substance abuse treatment center market. For those of us who are sober, and who may even have gone to treatment in South Florida, we are all too familiar with how the whole thing works.
My question is, where did it all go wrong?
There was a segment on Dr. OZ recently about this new epidemic, not the opioid one, but the one where people’s children and loved ones are being shipped back home from rehab in a body bag. Where families pay out thousands and thousands of dollars and wonder why their kids just keep getting high and hopping from sober house to sober house.
Did you know?:
- The current gross income for the treatment industry nationwide is over $35 billion
- More than 23 million Americans needed treatment for an alcohol or drug problem in 2012, but only about 11 percent received it, according to estimates from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
In Palm Beach County, the overdose rate recently quadrupled to 25 per day
A large issue here lies in the fact that, regardless of how well this has been covered in news stories and discussed IN CONGRESS, insurance companies have made little headway in monitoring the payouts they are making for those they cover.
For example, I have both been to and worked in the treatment industry, and I have seen hundreds of young adults, who have been in and out of treatment anywhere from 1 to, get this, 27 times in only a few short years. It boggles my mind to think about the fact that each of those treatment centers, not only charged insurance for room and board for the length of stay, but also the costs of therapy, group counseling, and urine analysis tests.
The single greatest opportunity for these “rogue” sober homeowners comes in the form of yellow gold. Urine Analysis testing has by and far become the highest grossing item on a treatment center bill.
One sober home owner who was busted in 2014 in Delray Beach was found guilty of billing out over $58 million in urine tests alone over a 5-year span.
The reason why these sober home operators want to get “heads in the beds” so much, is not so they can bill for the IOP (intensive outpatient) group therapy, but so they can bill for the mandatory urine test that each client must supply upon attending that mandatory IOP session.
I went to my very first substance abuse treatment center in Delray Beach over 3 years ago. This past summer, my parents received a bill in the mail for $80,000 for laboratory testing during my stay in that treatment center. Mind you, my stay was only for 30 days.
How is This All Being Done?
In Delray Beach, they have what we call, body snatchers/junkie hunters/marketers. Everywhere else in the world, marketing is known to be an esteemed advertising career, but in Delray, to be a marketer is to be a slimeball.
These people, usually men, will approach individuals on the street, in AA and NA meetings, and in some cases even in Detoxes, and lure them with tales of an easy way to stay in sober living and actually MAKE MONEY. They usually offer benefits such as;
- Not having to pay rent, simply attend 3 IOP groups a week
- Free cigarettes and grocery cards
- No curfew, friends are allowed over
And most importantly
- They can continue to get high while living in the house
- If they agree to go to treatment, they are often offered cash money as a bribe
The cycle continues only on the promise of that last “perk”, as the more these addicts continue to get high, the more the marketers can put them back into detox and then bring them back into their houses again, allowing them to bill the insurance, and starting the cycle over again.
To be honest, it’s a great scam. It works every time. Of course an addict or alcoholic, who is fresh out of treatment, young, impressionable, and not sure if they even want to get sober yet, is going to accept this offer. Get paid to get high?! Especially since most of them are flown down from other states, they have no parents around, no responsibilities, just free rent and a readily available supply of drugs on many of the blocks in town.
According to a recovering addict who interviewed for the Dr. Oz report, “ Everyone’s making money, and the addict keeps getting worse.”
I’m not sure how to stop all of this. I would say the insurance company needs to seriously re-evaluate their process. But there is no way that every ex-addict mastermind who wants to make some quick cash will not be able to figure out a way to loophole the system. Let’s just call a spade a spade for now and say, if you or a loved one needs treatment, there are 49 other states in the US that offer amazing and enriching treatment programs… do a little digging, and ask a lot of questions.