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In an article that came out on Buzzfeed last weekend, the gritty truth behind Florida’s “rehab economy” was revealed, with at times shocking accounts from addicts, recovering addicts, patients, and professionals alike. Cat Ferguson, a news reporter for Buzzfeed, covered a lot of ground in this expose, and shed some necessary light on the problem with much of the south Florida addiction treatment industry- a business which brings in millions. Treatment is such a huge part of Florida’s economy that the service model offered throughout most of south Florida has been coined “The Florida Model”- a combination of intensive outpatient therapy, part-time employment, and room/board in a halfway house.

What is this “rehab economy”?

Essentially, there are many people who are willing to capitalize on the vulnerable and comparatively unstable addict population. Many even being former addicts themselves, these “addict brokers” act almost as headhunters for treatment centers and halfway houses, finding struggling addicts and passing them along for a fee- sometimes as much as $500 per head. These brokers will go as far as to pay addicts to use in order to get them into detox or treatment. This type of shady dealing is technically a felony under Florida law, but enforcement is lacking. Further, many of the treatment centers and halfway houses lack any sort of proper accreditation or training/certification in its staff, existing to make money but providing very little legitimate treatment. The problem goes even deeper, including insurance scams, patient endangerment, and wrongful deaths- for the full story, click here.

This is not to say that ALL addiction treatment in Florida is shady or corrupt. As with anywhere else, there is solid recovery and legitimate facilities that offer addicts hope and a new way of life. However, this article should remind anyone considering treatment to do their homework before committing to a stay somewhere. Ask questions, check out licensing and credentials, and do site visits. And remember that what you see on TV isn’t always accurate- commercials that promise a “cure” for addiction in a luxurious, oceanfront resort may be hiding a darker truth.