You Got it Wrong, Vice

By: David Greenspan

Vice recently published a two-part exposé on the sad state of this country’s for-profit substance abuse treatment centers.

vice dying for treatment

The videos and article centered around the story of Brandon Jacques, your typical American every-kid, who passed away on April 2nd, 2011 in a California detox.

While Brandon’s is a touching and true story, Vice’s damning depiction of the rehab industry left a lot to be desired. Are there problems with this industry? Absolutely. Do they apply to every treatment center? Not at all. Not even a little bit.

Because Vice’s report took the form of Brandon Jacques’ narrative, I thought I’d write an open letter to them about my own narrative. Treatment saved my life. It’s that simple.

How Rehab Saved My Life

I’ve had a problem with drugs and alcohol since I was twelve years old. Right from the get go, I suffered consequences from my drug use. The first time I smoked weed was on school property. I was caught and suspended.

The following year, I sold Ambien to a kid in my school. He had an allergic reaction and almost died. I was once again caught and suspended. You’d think these events would be a wake up call, right? Nope. I was already caught in the cycle of active addiction.

I was sent to my first intensive outpatient program (IOP for short) pretty soon afterwards. Thus began my illustrious career as a rehab client.

By the time I was eighteen, I’d been to three outpatient programs and two jail cells. Each IOP was a for-profit center located in or around New York City. Throughout all three, I drank and drugged. Is that the rehab’s fault? Absolutely not.

Each IOP program went above and beyond while trying to help me. They offered family services for my parents. Counselors spent long hours arguing with me about my drug use, which, by this time, had turned to full-fledged addiction. Counselors took time from their weekends to bring me to twelve-step meetings.

None of it worked. You know why? Because I wasn’t ready to stop. Because I was a full blown alcoholic and addict who, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, thought everything was fine.

Once I turned eighteen, I entered my first for-profit inpatient rehab. It was one of the many in south Florida. I was out and using six months later. Again, this treatment center went above and beyond for me and my family. To this day, I’m still in contact with counselors, behavioral health professionals, and doctors I met there.

Was it the rehab’s fault I relapsed? Nope. I remember waiting for a bus while being strung out. I was shaking like a leaf, the Florida heat didn’t help one bit. Guess who walks up to me? A behavioral health professional from the rehab. We talked for over an hour. She took me to a meeting and got me into a halfway house.

I was promptly kicked out of the halfway house for getting high. See, that’s what active addicts and alcoholics do. We drink and drug until we’re forced to stop.

The following year, at the ignorant age of nineteen, I entered my second for-profit rehab. By this point, I’d been arrested a handful of times. I’d overdosed more times than I could count. I crashed cars and suffered serious medical consequences as a result of my drug use. I’d burned every bridge I had left. I was done.

This facility, also in south Florida, saved my life. While all the other rehabs went above and beyond, this place was really something. The doctors, counselors, BHP’s, and everyone else working there, were simply amazing. They got me on the right medication. They ran the right groups.

Guess what else happened at that rehab? My insurance ran out. Did they kick me out? Nope. They worked out a payment plan that seemed fair. They continued to treat me. When I had trouble making those payments, they continued to treat me.

See, Vice, there are certainly some shady for-profit rehabs in the U.S. There are certainly places that engage in illegal referrals for kickbacks. There are certainly places that market themselves as “full-service,” despite offering limited treatment options. But not all rehabs are like that. Not even close.

You’re Looking in the Wrong Places, Vice

The Vice exposé focused on luxury California treatment centers and one in Arizona. That’s not really surprising. California has a ton of overpriced and under qualified rehabs. I don’t know about Arizona, but I’d guess they’re the same.

What about south Florida, though? What about Delray Beach, affectionately known as “the recovery capital of the world?”

Now Vice, let me stop you right there. “But David,” they’re saying, “south Florida also has a ton of shady rehabs and halfway houses. Haven’t you read this article?”

I did read it and you’re right, Vice. South Florida has its bad seeds. It has treatment centers, detoxes, and sober living facilities that were founded based on nothing more than greed. It also has a vibrant and one-of-a-kind recovery community.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I work at a for-profit rehab. Does that bias my view about for-profit treatment centers in south Florida and elsewhere? Probably. Does that change the fact that there are plenty of rehabs saving lives left and right? Not one bit.

So, the next time you want to do a report on the treatment industry, Vice, why don’t you try talking to one of them.

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