WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A grand-jury report has found that
deceptive marketing and admissions personnel are more interested in
selling treatment to drug addicts rather than providing help.
The grand jury — which was arranged by Dave Aronberg, state
attorney for the 15th Judicial Circuit of Florida, and met for three
months, according to a Sun-Sentinel article
— was believed to be the first of its kind in Florida to examine
the abuses in the drug-treatment industry. After considering the
state’s billion-dollar substance-abuse treatment industry, the
grand jury’s 44-page report
found it is plagued by “deceptive marketing, insurance fraud and
patient brokering.” The report offered recommendations on how to
The report, which was released on Dec. 8, 2016, mentions deceptive
marketing as a normal practice that threatens to harm the reputation
of good treatment providers as it exploits a vulnerable class. It
found that the Department of Children and Families, the state agency
charged with overseeing the industry is “grossly understaffed and
According to the Sun
Sentinel, Aronberg said in an interview that marketers are
deceiving those who need genuine treatment for their addiction.
“We’re seeing this all over the place, where people look to
marketers for help in finding a treatment facility, and instead they
get steered to some place where the marketer has a financial
incentive, a place that looks nothing like the picture or
description,” he said in the article.
Justin Kunzelman, director of business development for Ebb Tide
Treatment Center in Palm Beach Gardens, is a member of a county task
force that works on solutions to regulate the industry. As someone
who has been in recovery for eight years, he stated that the
substance-abuse treatment sector works differently to regular
patient-doctor check-ups, according to the Sun Sentinel.
He said that the substance-abuse industry has moved from marketing
to patients through word-of-mouth recommendations to what is known as
a pay-for-patient style type of marketing, which makes it unfair for
consumers who are vulnerable and credible businesses.
Also, according to the grand-jury report, there are companies that
deliberately misrepresent their actual locations and services, simply
to attract people. The report claimed they do this using misleading
banner ads, which claim that treatment providers are within a city,
only to then send calls to call centers and different treatment
providers across the country.
revealed that some drug-treatment providers would pay marketers to
route calls to their admissions lines while callers could be
persuaded into a more intensive and expensive level of care than they
To improve the industry, Kunzelman wants legislation to make
training and certification for admissions personnel required to
improve standards and caller confidence.
A separate Sun
Sentinel report said that while sober homes provide excellent
care, many unregulated homes “have become unsafe and overcrowded
‘flophouses’ where crimes like rape, theft, human trafficking,
prostitution and illegal drug use are commonplace.”
To tackle the issue, Aronberg launched a separate sober-homes task
force to examine ways to build regulations in the drug treatment
industry. The task force started last July after receiving $275,000
in state funding. He also plans to talk to state lawmakers when the
legislative session starts in March.