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How can I ensure my drug treatment center is ethical?

Addiction to alcohol, illicit drugs and pharmaceuticals is a rampant issue in America today. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports approximately 23.5 million Americans are in need of treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol abuse problem. This data shows a vast number of United States citizens are in need of addiction treatment. This demographic has unfortunately been the target of scams in the form of unethical treatment programs, rehab facilities and halfway houses designed to benefit from those who need help and their insurance policies.

Changes in legislation influencing mental health services, such as the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA), provided expanded insurance coverage for mental health services. This act established that health coverage plans cannot enforce annual or lifetime dollar limits on benefits to mental health services. This federal law promotes the ability of group health plans to provide coverage for psychiatric care and extends the parity requirements to substance use disorders.

As a result, insurance companies are now more apt to cover the necessary mental health services. While this legislation was beneficial in helping patients receive coverage for necessary treatments, it sparked the influx of unethical treatment programs. With the abundance of these scams, how can a prospective client verify the ethics of addiction recovery treatment programs?

Fortunately, the National Certification Commission for Addiction Professionals (NCC AP), under the Association for Addiction Professionals (NAADAC), has established standards for counseling for those with substance use disorder. It provides credentialing to professionals who meet the national standard and establishes the policies for achieving credentials.

Due to the influx of unethical treatment programs, the NAADAC/NCC AP Code of Ethics was updated in October 2016. This code of ethics is the Standard of Conduct for Addiction Professionals certified by the National Certification Commission. It exists as a statement of the integrity of the profession and is a guide for establishing clinical decisions. This standard of ethics is utilized by state certification boards and educational providers to evaluate the behavior of professionals who treat addiction and to guide in the certification process.

Another leader in the field of ethical evaluation and consideration is The National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP). NAATP identifies their position and purpose as “a nonprofit professional membership association comprised of addiction treatment providers and entities that support addiction treatment. Founded in 1978, the mission of NAATP is to provide leadership, advocacy, training and member support services to ensure the availability and highest quality of addiction treatment.”

NAATP’s code of ethics provides guidelines on treatment, management, marketing and facilities. By necessity, these standards are rigorous, and NAATP membership is a privilege. NAATP requires that all members adhere to NAATP Values, Membership Conditions and the NAATP Code of Ethics. An excellent first step in determining if the treatment center you are considering for your rehabilitation (or a loved one’s) is legitimate is to check their company website for the distinctive NAATP membership seal.

Other organizations that accredit addiction rehabilitation centers are The Joint Commission and the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF®). These organizations are non-profits that base accreditation on high standards that evaluate the quality of care and results of program success.

It is important to note that state licensing is not the same as accreditation, given the fact that each state’s standards may differ in licensing requirements.

One of the first recommendations to finding an ethical treatment program is verifying they have been properly licensed and accredited. Unlicensed treatment centers and programs may not operate by a regulated standard of care and should be avoided. Verification of a program is an imperative step when choosing a treatment facility.

If a facility program is licensed and accredited, it is important to ensure the staff working within the program are as well. Professionals working within addiction and recovery care need to have proper training and experience to provide optimal treatment. Licensures and certifications require that adequate hours of specific education and healthcare standards are met in order to be achieved and maintained. A staff that is deficient in any licensures or certifications may not have the knowledge to appropriately provide care in an addiction program. It is important that a facility team meets or exceeds nationally recognized standards for professional practice.

There are various types of medical professionals that practice in addiction treatment facilities such as: medical doctors, dieticians, addiction specialists, chemical dependency counselors, nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, and patient care techs. All professionals working within a treatment program should be trained and licensed in their field.

A few examples of credentials within addiction treatment are CCDP (Certified Co-occurring Disorders Counselor, LADC (Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor), LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor), LMHC (Licensed Mental Health Counselor), CAP (Certified Addictions Professional) and CAC (Certified Addictions Counselor).

Ensuring the programs within a facility are ethical and beneficial is another key step in addiction recovery. Quality programs address not only addiction but also emotional, spiritual and physical aspects that may have led to the addiction.

Determining the ethics and success of these programs can be a difficult process. This is why examining treatment models is imperative to verifying any addiction treatment. Treatment models allow us to gain insight into the specifics of care within a program. Every patient is different and an ethical treatment program will provide individualized treatment plans to ensure that everyone receives adequate care.

Though treatment standards are similar, each facility offers variations on how to achieve recovery. Finding the correct program that meets the specific needs of a patient is imperative to healing. When examining treatment models, it is important to keep in mind the unique issues that may be a challenge when trying to achieve addiction recovery. For example, dual diagnosis program therapies are not offered at all treatment facilities. These variations in care may be the difference between success or failure to a person who needs these services in addition to traditional addiction recovery standards.

Remember: when choosing a rehabilitation program, look for one that is licensed and employs certified staff with addiction treatment experience. A valid program has longevity in the community and offers site visits prior to coming into treatment. The program should also have step-down levels of care, Extended Care, Day Treatment, Intensive Outpatient Treatment and Aftercare/Alumni Groups. This is to ensure that when you transition back into your life you have continued support. Treating addiction is a difficult process but with the right facility, program and professionals, you can achieve and maintain sobriety.

Turning Point of Tampa’s goal is to always provide a safe environment and a solid foundation in 12-Step recovery, in tandem with quality individual therapy and groups. We have been offering Licensed Residential Treatment for Substance Abuse, Eating Disorders and Dual Diagnosis in Tampa since 1987. If you need help or know someone who does, please contact our admissions department at 813-882-3003, 800-397-3006 or admissions@tpoftampa.com.