Addiction recovery centers are supposed to serve as safe havens for people struggling with addiction, providing an opportunity to rid themselves of dependency. Unfortunately, not all treatment centers are ethical. Treatment centers must be transparent about their practices to ensure that people entering treatment fully understand the program. Federal laws also require strict confidentiality for all people in treatment at a facility. In addition, there are specific licenses and accreditations that drug rehabs should possess that indicate an elevated level of care and the professional knowledge from practitioners for peace of mind.
Treatment Centers Sometimes Use Unethical Practices
Many signs can indicate unethical behavior in an addiction recovery center. Accepting kickbacks for referrals is a big red flag. When a medical professional accepts payments in exchange for patient referrals, it is a kickback. Lawmakers created the federal anti-kickback statutes to prevent medical professionals from allowing money to influence medical decisions. The statutes consider accepting kickbacks to be a felony, and the penalties result in fines up to $25,000 for each occurrence and up to five years in prison.
Some signs that a treatment center is taking part in unethical practices include:
- Scam marketing online
- Providing large gifts to people who refer others to their program
- Sharing patient information
- Guaranteeing that they can get rid of your addiction
- Unsubstantiated, inflated billing
- Administering unnecessary and/or repetitive medical testing, procedures or therapies
There’s more to the shady practices that some unscrupulous operators engage in, putting naïve consumers at risk. Recently, the courts have begun their own vetting process in hopes of distinguishing the good from the bad to help people who are looking for treatment, find what they need.
Confidentiality in Treatment Centers: HIPAA
The federal government created the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in 1996 to help protect patients’ medical information. All medical facilities must adhere to HIPAA including addiction recovery and treatment centers. If any medical professionals violate HIPAA rules and regulations, they could lose their license, be required to pay a fine or face jail time.
Lawmakers designed HIPAA to give people involved in any type of medical treatment the right to privacy and assurance of confidentiality. Medical professionals may not disclose information about a patient to anyone unless they have the patients’ written consent. HIPAA has some specific requirements for medical facilities such as treatment centers. They must:
- Ensure that the only people who know a person’s medical information have a legal right to it.
- Use measures to protect any theft of medical records, both paper and digital.
- Ensure that all employees understand the rules of HIPAA and the severity of the punishment if they violate them.
- Provide employees and patients with copies of HIPAA guidelines.
HIPAA also gives patients the right to revoke consent verbally, even if they have signed a HIPAA agreement. Addiction recovery centers are subject to the same requirements as any other medical facility.
If an addiction recovery center ever violates HIPAA or engages in any other unethical practices, a patient could receive sub-par or deceptive care, which could have serious or fatal consequences for the person struggling with addiction.
Suggestions for Improved Treatment Centers
Addiction recovery centers in the United States have many improvements to make when it comes to improving transparency. Experts have compiled a list of suggestions to help make treatment centers more ethical and transparent.
Lessen the Ties Between the Criminal Justice System and Treatment Centers
If someone who is arrested has a substance abuse problem, the court may provide him or her with the option of incarceration or entering treatment. Though this may be effective for some people, it makes addiction recovery centers reliant on the criminal justice system. This relationship intensifies the stigma that accompanies addiction recovery centers and the people who use them. It also increases the likelihood that employees and medical professionals in treatment centers will treat the patients poorly, because they see them as criminals. Many studies have shown empathy, and positive relationships and interactions between patients and staff significantly increase the chances that treatment be successful.
Make Patients Aware of Medication-Assisted Treatment Options
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is still a point of controversy. Some people believe MAT is simply substituting one drug for another and does not help. Others believe it is the safest and most effective way to avoid potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms and help someone overcome addiction.
Studies have shown that people who use MAT are significantly less likely to die than those who use other, more traditional methods of treatment. Some treatment centers do not offer the MAT option because of the stigma that accompanies it, though MAT is often the safest option for many people struggling with opioid addictions.
More Transparency Is Needed to Build Public Trust
Treatment centers need to make patients aware of MAT and improve overall transparency. Many do not make it clear to people what their practices are before they sign up. Prospective patients deserve to understand the personal treatment and financial implications that accompany enrollment at a facility. Using the above-referenced guidelines and information will help. In addition, when inquiring about services from an addiction treatment center, ask questions. Knowledge equates to trust.
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