How can you judge the quality of an addiction treatment provider?
Data on addiction treatment outcomes has always been difficult to gather, for several reasons. And the increase in drug addiction caused by opiates has attracted a number of new treatment providers into the field. According to industry sources, not all of those new centers are qualified to provide quality care. And, some of them are more focused on profits rather than positive results.
As a result, those who need treatment and their loved ones have more provider choices than ever before, but also face more challenges in choosing the right provider for their needs.
Responding to those trends, the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP) recently announced a new, ethics-based, quality control initiative to address problematic business practices in the addiction treatment field.
The NAATP says illegal, unethical, and unprofessional practices have reached an all-time high, “creating a need for well-defined industry practice standards. While bad practices are committed by a minority of treatment providers, they cause serious public harm and damage the reputation of ethical, high-quality treatment operators,” the organization says.
The NAATP Ethics Program was developed to address rising concerns over unethical addiction treatment business practices. The NAATP says it began to see a trend toward such practices, mainly in program marketing, several years ago. “Such practices give an unfair advantage to certain providers, raise concerns about quality of care, make it difficult for values-based providers to succeed, and harm the reputation of the entire field,” the NAATP said in a statement.
NAATP Executive Director Marvin Ventrell told The Influence that the volume of complaints his organization receives about unscrupulous treatment providers has increased “significantly.” Does he think there are more unaccredited providers trying to “cash in” on the opiate epidemic? “Without a doubt,” Ventrell says.
The NAATP has identified the following specific practices as “most concerning:” patient brokering; predatory web practices; deceptive web directory call aggregation; insurance and billing abuses; payment kickbacks; and licensing and accreditation misrepresentation.
One of the newer unethical practices is the collection of potential clients online or by 800 numbers for sale, or “a site that purports to be a directory of centers but really is run by a center and the referrals go there,” Ventrell says. “NAATP ethics prohibit the buying or selling of leads. That is not how one should locate health care.”
The NAATP plans to develop a guidebook which will identify inappropriate business practices and also best practices. The Guidebook will include instructional “how to” tools for provider implementation of best practices. It will also create a training curriculum that will set an educational operations standard for the field, the NAATP says.
The NAATP Guidebook “will define and prohibit these practices while presenting clear standards for ethical business operations,” the group says. Once in place, NAATP treatment provider members will be required to adhere to the guidelines, thereby creating a “high floor” practice standard, Ventrell says.
“The landscape for addiction treatment services has changed and we operate in a different environment than we once did,” the group said in a statement. “NAATP has seen industry growth, retraction, and accompanying business practices in our four-decade existence, but never before have we seen the magnitude of both growth and values-less practices that we now experience.”
Last year, the NAATP developed and implemented an Ethics Complaint Policy and Procedure, which allows a complainant to file an ethics complaint against an NAATP Member. Under the P&P, the NAATP Executive Staff and Ethics Committee review the complaint, determine if it is meritorious, and if it is, address the concern with the provider. If a provider were to persist in conduct violative of The Code, the member can be removed.
As another way to generate more information consumers can use to choose providers which can deliver on their promises, the NAATP is also working on a “rigorous” outcomes study, Ventrell says.