Already branded with stigma around treatment, most clients of rehabilitation centers have also fallen victim to the health care industry’s financial prioritization. As advertised, treatment centers are expected to focus on the medical and mental health of their clients. However, most American treatment centers emphasize their title as a business.
Meanwhile, publicity efforts mask the hunger for money with pity, while they are only bothered by client pockets and lack genuine concern for their self-safety. Research clarifies that this consideration stops at the surface — these businesses search for excuses to keep clients in treatment as long as insurance allows them to. Clients are treated like walking wallets with a diagnosis, giving authorities power highs.
Considering the deadly mixture of financial prioritization and gaslighting within staff-client relationships, perhaps the field could use a completely new team. I’d like to focus on two examples in my argument, methodologies in both substance abuse and eating disorder treatment centers.
My accusation that treatment clinics prioritize money is supported by the “Florida Shuffle” web, which traps victims of substance abuse in the treatment world in order to drain as much insurance money from clients as possible. With Florida being a hotspot for victims of substance abuse, treatment facilities were borderline trading clients by moving them from center to center with little to no progress made in order to keep them and their insurance tangled. Florida became a profitable place for rehabilitation centers, sober-living facilities and other seeming supports.
However, when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act passed, insurance became easier to manipulate as the regulations widened treatment options to low-income individuals. Due to these laws, a spike in client pool caused Florida’s master plan to become even more obsessive — labs and other treatment-adjacent locations opened and expanded.
Facilities dragged out as much money from clients as they could. For example, centers intentionally started using more expensive lab processes or held clients longer than needed to wring out funds. Unshockingly, “Florida Shuffle” occurs all over America, but it is just one example of a recurring, systemic scam for money in the treatment world.
In addition to victims of substance abuse being taken advantage of, similar practices happen in eating disorder recovery centers. However, the manipulation occurs more internally, with companies focused on their business rather than their clients. Like we saw in the substance abuse treatment community, Erica Goode of the New York Times explains that “[the eating disorder treatment industry] has been propelled by the Affordable Care Act and other changes in health insurance laws that have increased coverage for mental disorders, as well as by investments from private equity firms.”
Goode expands on this abuse of power by explaining the shift from favoring client health to disregarding anything but economy for their businesses — “in the companies’ rush to expand, they argue, quality of treatment may be sacrificed for profit.” In addition to this rush, some companies were caught bribing their scouts, pushing them to send their clients to their clinics.
Goode reveals that “critics liken [visitors] to pharmaceutical industry tactics that led to laws and policies requiring financial disclosure, though on a smaller scale. Studies had shown that even small gifts from drug companies, like free medication samples, affected doctors’ prescription practices.” As expected, clinics are weighing finances over client health behind closed doors and taking advantage of people in need at the cost of a profit.
Now, I’d like to address the manipulation that occurs inside specific recovery-branded environments. One former client opened up about the Denver-based Eating Recovery Center (ERC). She was heavily gaslit and traumatized by the practices used at the facility. The client was often told her concerns were “just the eating disorder talking.” The client stated that her goal shifted from wanting to get better to wanting to get out of treatment. This is the case for a lot of clients.
Additionally, ERC isolated their clients who got tubed — for months, in some cases. In another instance, staff members told a client’s family not to believe anything they said about treatment. Meals were timed, as were supplement drinks, and tubes were used as a threat if clients failed to finish their meals on time. Clients who accidentally dropped food on the floor had to eat off the floor. Phone calls were monitored. Anxiety-induced vomiting was mistaken for purging, and clients had to clean it up themselves after a scolding.
Some of the punishments used at ERC were prevalent in other clinics as well. Another facility that disregards client health is Miami-based Monte Nido and Affiliates. Not only is the current CEO of their owners a white male who was busted for insider trading, but the CEO of the former owners was sued for fraud. So, aside from recent owners being proven greedy, Monte Nido was also among the facilities that were understaffed, according to employee reviews of their work experience with Monte Nido and affiliates.
Former employees also claimed the recovery coaches were disrespected, as were the chefs and maids. In addition, the company had a history of mergers and acquisitions. Monte Nido was also titled “one of the country’s largest and leading eating disorder platforms.” How can the facility afford such expansion and advertising yet be understaffed and dismissive of struggling clients? Perhaps the clinic only sees their community as an opportunity for larger profits that benefit the business.
With all of the mentioned practices in mind, we can likely conclude that the majority of treatment facilities have the wrong intentions when their focus is profit, and client wellbeing is often dismissed. Perhaps local, single-location facilities would have better results than leaving clients traumatized at the expense of expansion and earnings.
Smaller companies would likely ensure that staff members that want to be working in the field instead of workers who join for financial success in larger businesses. In addition, companies should enforce their recovery-promoted slogans rather than following the largest yield, especially when their owners contradict the clinics’ advertised messages.
So, when did treatment centers for substance abuse and eating disorders shift from health goals to economic goals? Perhaps a cap on the number of locations a company owns should be enforced to avoid the common temptations of capitalism. Perhaps the system needs a full reconstruction for their phony recovery mottos to ring true.
Alexis Fischer is a senior majoring in English.