Some Things You Should Know Before Choosing a Treatment Program for Someone You Love

When a person finds him or herself calling an addiction treatment facility for someone in their family, they are in a fairly desperate place. The person of concern is not only wreaking havoc in their own life. They are creating an atmosphere of chaos and stress all around them.

So, when you make that call, you’re vulnerable. You’re in distress. And, especially if you’ve never had any such experience before, you’re confused. The only question you might know to ask is “what do I do.”

Here are three questions you should ask. And, you should ask them before you make a commitment to do anything. Whoever is on the other end of the phone should be able to answer these clearly. If they can’t, ask to speak to someone who can or start looking somewhere else.

How is your facility funded?

This question pertains not only to the facility’s business model, but it’s operational philosophy. Not all, but most of the better addiction treatment facilities around the country are non-profit organizations.

On day one of my orientation for the first job I had in the industry,I was walking between buildings, from one meeting to the next, with the woman who hired me. She grabbed me by the arm, stopped dead in her tracks, and looked straight into my eyes. “If you’re here to get rich,” she said, “go somewhere else. That’s not why we’re here. If you want to make a lot of money, sell cars. Become a real estate agent.”

This is a very competitive business. If you’re really giving the clients the care, attention, and resources they need to heal, you’re not making money hand over fist.

So, before you make a commitment to send a person to a particular facility, you should understand their business model. Know what you’re getting into.

What is the cash-pay price?

Whether or not the person needing help will be trying to use insurance benefits to fund their treatment, this is a very important question to ask. The person you’re talking to should be able to quickly give you a clear answer. If they give you any sort of answer that includes “it depends,” go somewhere else. That usually means “it depends how much money you have.” That’s not an acceptable answer. All legitimate treatment programs have an established cash pay price based on length of stay. Any discount that might be extended, or scholarship that might be offered, will generally be a percentage based on that price.

What levels of care are you licensed to treat?

Legitimate treatment facilities have a formal screening and assessment process to determine the appropriate level of care for your loved one. From the perspective of the admissions department, they undertake this process to see whether they can or cannot treat the person. If they determine the person needs a higher level of care, the facility will generally refer them to a facility better equipped to help them.

There are many implications to this question. It costs much more to operate a facility that is licensed for the residential level of care. It requires more staff, more documentation, more resources, etc. There are also zoning issues.

Many insurance policies do not cover residential treatment at all. The highest level of care they may cover is partial hospitalization, which does not include boarding costs.

Which level or levels of care a facility provides doesn’t make it good or bad. But, it is relevant in terms of quality of care. What really matters is that your family member goes someplace where they can get their needs met. Again, as with all these questions, the person on the phone should be able to give you a clear answer. If they can’t, that’s just not good enough.

These are some questions a person would want to ask in their initial conversations with the staff at an addiction treatment facility. There are many more. In my opinion, how these questions are answered is equally important to the answers.
If the person on the phone seems unsure or evasive, that should tell you something. Trust your gut.

Ideally, you would consult with an outside professional who can help you navigate this terrain objectively. No matter what their credentials, it should be someone who has substantial experience working with addiction. And, even those who do can be unaware of the breadth of resources available to your loved one. Don’t be afraid to talk to more than one person.

Tom Gentry is an Internationally-Certified Alcohol & Drug Counselor and a Certified Addiction Counselor in the State of Florida. He lives in West Palm Beach.