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More oversight of addiction treatment needed to protect consumers

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More oversight of addiction treatment needed to protect consumers

In Congressional testimony, Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation CEO Mark Mishek calls for quality standards, regulatory reforms and a national ban on "patient brokering"

PR Newswire

CENTER CITY, Minn., July 24, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation President and CEO Mark Mishek told a Congressional panel today that the addiction treatment industry needs more oversight to protect vulnerable people and families suffering from substance use disorders.

Mark Mishek, president and CEO of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, testified July 24, 2018, in front of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on the need for more oversight in the addiction treatment industry to protect vulnerable people and families suffering from substance use disorders.

"Without more accountability, our field will continue evolving into a sector where success is predicated not on whether patients get well and families heal, but on the size of your advertising budget, website analytics, search engine optimization and call center tactics," said Mishek, whose nonprofit organization is a leading national addiction treatment provider, with 17 sites in nine states.

Mishek testified Tuesday in front of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, which is taking a bipartisan look at deceptive marketing practices in the addiction treatment field and "patient brokering" – the practice of paying for patients and patient leads.

Mishek, whose organization was referred to as a gold standard throughout the hearing, called for Congress to pass legislation banning patient brokering and to help states bolster state licensure requirements; accreditation standards; clinician education qualifications; and access to comprehensive, evidence-based care and support that is coordinated and integrated with the rest of the healthcare system.

"Most in our field do great work. But to ensure ethical, quality care for all who seek help for addiction, we believe it is time to establish quality standards and a consistent, enforceable regulatory framework for the addiction treatment industry. The stakes—patient safety and public confidence in addiction treatment—are high," Mishek said.

Growing market demand for addiction treatment—driven by the opioid crisis and expanded insurance coverage—has attracted unprecedented private investment and an influx of new providers operating in a field that is under-regulated and lacks consistent quality standards. It is in this environment, Mishek said, that the treatment industry has seen the rise of unprofessional, unethical and sometimes illegal practices such as deceptive marketing, patient brokering and fraud.

"In too many cases, people who need help are instead being harmed," he said.

Subcommittee members noted that patient brokering and fraud are often enabled by deceptive marketing. While all of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation's treatment marketing leads to a single, clearly branded website – HazeldenBettyFord.org  – that is not the case for others in the field who use multiple sites and multiple brands to acquire patients. Often, it is not clear who is behind ads for addiction treatment, or who consumers will get when they reach out for help. Some providers obscure their affiliations to other organizations, or misrepresent the services they provide, the conditions they treat, the credentials of their staff, or the insurance they accept. And some use online bait-and-switch techniques to get calls from people intending to call a different treatment center – something Mishek said his organization sees frequently.

"These marketing tactics can lead to bad treatment for consumers. The lack of transparency, on top of minimal quality standards in the industry, puts patients at risk. These kinds of practices certainly would not be tolerated in any other area of healthcare," said Mishek, a former hospital executive.

Industry reform is the Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery Advocacy's top priority for 2018 and has been the focus of its conversations with policymakers at the federal and state level. Mishek said he would like to see the federal government develop and disseminate quality and regulatory standards for states to consider, provide training and technical assistance, and work with organizations like the National Association of Addiction Treatment Professionals (NAATP) to disseminate standards and best practice guidance.

"Now is the time to restore faith and accountability in the addiction treatment field," Mishek said. "It is time to establish quality standards and an enforceable regulatory framework to guide all treatment organizations. It is time to ensure ethical, quality care for all people who seek help for addiction."

Video of the hearing and links to witnesses' prepared statements are available on the House Energy and Commerce Committee website.

About the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation
The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is a force of healing and hope for individuals, families and communities affected by addiction to alcohol and other drugs. It is the nation's largest nonprofit treatment provider, with a legacy that began in 1949 and includes the 1982 founding of the Betty Ford Center. With 17 sites in California, Minnesota, Oregon, Illinois, New York, Florida, Massachusetts, Colorado and Texas, the Foundation offers prevention and recovery solutions nationwide and across the entire continuum of care to help youth and adults reclaim their lives from the disease of addiction. It includes the largest recovery publishing house in the country, a fully accredited graduate school of addiction studies, an addiction research center, an education arm for medical professionals and a unique children's program, and is the nation's leader in advocacy and policy for treatment and recovery. Learn more at HazeldenBettyFord.org and on Twitter @hazldnbettyford.

 

The nation's largest nonprofit treatment organization. (PRNewsFoto/Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation)

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SOURCE Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

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