There have been a number of recent articles in news media outlets that falsely and maliciously defame high-quality addiction treatment organizations, including Solutions Recovery in Las Vegas and its parent company American Addiction Center. I’d like to address some falsehoods that have been appearing, and I will do so in a series of blogs that detail misleading headlines, misleading statements, and outright lies from certain reporters.
In this piece I will address the recent Mother Jones article, “America’s Only Publicly Traded Addiction Treatment Chain Makes Millions Off Patients. What Could Go Wrong?” which began by talking about the parent company AAC and ended up defaming my treatment center, Solutions Recovery, and dragging its caregivers through false mud, vilifying the devoted addiction treatment professionals.
When the reporter speaks about the “marketing machine” of AAC, they impress upon the reader a sense of deception. However, the Mother Jones article itself is deceptive and far from the truth. Mother Jones insinuates that treatment centers are creating situations where someone becomes addicted just so that money can be spent on treatment. This is absurd. The truth is, AAC and treatment centers like Solutions Recovery, are increasing access to treatment for the millions who are dependent on drugs and alcohol, many of whom die tragically. Quality online outreach resources and truthful advertising about the nature of addiction and the choice of recovery should be promoted, not maligned. It is very clear to me that Mother Jones does not understand that nature of addiction, the difficulty those struggling with it have in acknowledging that they have a problem and the great benefit that marketing and outreach resources like AAC’s bring to those in need.
It has become popular to malign a treatment center whenever a treatment center patient passes away. This kind of reporting is misleading and irresponsible. The Mother Jones article doesn’t discuss that over 72,000 Americans died from a drug overdose last year, with 700,000 having died between 1992 and 2017. While we are mad and looking to blame someone for this tragedy, vilifying the treatment professionals that help get thousands safe and healthy and a return to their families, is not the answer. The sad reality is that the disease of addiction takes hundreds of American lives each day. Solutions Recovery is one of those places that had around 300 treatment professionals ready to help the thousands that came through that door, many times giving them treatment for free or at a drastically discounted cost. If you ask the Las Vegas community about their work, you would hear hundreds raise their voices in support, thanking them for helping get them or their kids, parents, husbands, wives, clean and sober. Of course, the Mother Jones reporter chose not to spoke to these many grateful members of our recovery community but rather focused on a handful of limited, biased sources such as disgruntled former employees and plaintiff’s attorneys.
“Behavioral health technicians,’ often recovering drug users themselves, were supposed to supervise residents while a nurse treated individuals,” states the Mother Jones article. This statement is a slap in the face to hundreds of people all over the country that have struggled with addiction, come out the other side, and have then devoted their lives to helping others receive treatment. This sentence helps propagate the very stigma that this reporter will turn around and write about for Overdose Awareness Day, stating that stigma stops people from seeking treatment and thus endangers lives. Whether someone has gone to school for social work, drug & alcohol counseling, or was trained for weeks to be a Behavioral Health Technician at Solutions Recovery, 99% of the employees there loved and valued the clients because they identified with them and wanted to help save their lives. They know all too well what the alternative is. To simplify their job at the treatment center, and their contribution, is an insult.
Another thing this article does is sensationalize the accidental deaths that have occurred, as horrible and unfortunate as they are. What this Mother Jones reporter fails to mention is that since tort reform in Nevada doesn’t protect treatment facilities, huge predatory law firms pay PR companies to taint jury pools. They spend thousands of dollars to produce sensationalized and embellished stories that reporters eat up. Once these stories are out, it doesn’t matter if you hear what really happened, people think they know the truth because of what the local TV station reported on. These deaths are sad and they are rare, but they are also misrepresentative of the treatment that was provided at Solutions Recovery, and treatment centers like it. I ran those eight houses for over a decade and we saved thousands of lives. Any death is horrible and absolutely too many, but having successfully treated thousands of individuals is also a testament to the sense of care and treatment provided by the hundreds employed at Solutions Recovery.
This reporter chose to give credibility to one biased nurse out of over 50 that we employed. Our standards were high and with 10 or fewer patients per nurse, I encourage the reporters to talk to other nurses. The nurse that was spoken to was fired by me, and he was upset. I will not speak about the entire scenario but It takes an awful lot to get fired by me.
“Often, the basic rules of medicine don’t apply to addiction treatment—many rehabs don’t employ a single licensed doctor—and while prospective patients can compare performance data from hospitals and nursing homes on Medicare.gov, no such database exists for rehabs. It’s nearly impossible for the average recovering user or desperate parent to tell which facilities offer ethical, evidence-based care.”
The above statement is not just false, it is misleading! Not only are treatment facilities held to standards set by the government in order to do business, but they must also be accredited by either The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (government) or private organizations such as the Joint Commission or the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (nonprofit). Despite the government not putting a database together for their citizens, outside nonprofit organizations have. The Human Rights Campaign is one such organization that has put together a Healthcare Equality Index. The index was created to find healthcare facilities that treat the LGBTQ+ community respectfully and safely, but you can see that it only highlights facilities that reach a certain standard. If you want to government to put together a database that rates treatment facilities on certain factors then tell your local representative, but don’t assume that facilities are held to no standard (nor that they would be happy with the low quality!)
This brings me to my next point. I truly believe that this reporter has gotten treatment facilities mixed up with sober houses. Not only is it required for treatment facilities to employ doctors and medical professionals, but Solutions Recovery has always employed physicians and medical professionals of the highest quality. On top of this, no one can even be admitted to the facility without first seeing a doctor.
Unfortunately, there will never be a shortage of people with the disease of addiction who need our help. We do hope that we can save lives and return loved ones to their families. Addiction is a terrible disease. We have to work together to help increase access to treatment, raise the quality of treatment, and help prevent addiction before it starts through education. While reporting on issues at hand is important in order to make positive changes in the world, these reporters need to remember that addiction is the enemy, not the caring people of the treatment industry.