NAATP to Launch Enhanced Ethics Compliance and Consumer Protection Initiative
The practice of high quality values-based addiction treatment is threatened by unprofessional, unethical, and illegal activity within the field. Abuses range from marketing deception to outright illegal activity. The impact of this conduct is profound. It harms both the consumer and the field of addiction treatment at large. While abusive profiteering is experienced in many fields, and while it is true that our field has experienced periods of inappropriate marketing in the past, never in NAATP’s 40-year history have we seen abuses of this magnitude.
Recently, several mainstream news stories broke, highlighting this darker side of addiction treatment: A New York Times piece on relapse profiteers in South Florida, an NBC broadcast on overdose and provider fraud, and a Philadelphia Inquirer article on hijacked patients stand out. As high quality providers who have worked honorably for decades in this field - including numerous excellent providers in South Florida - it is painful to read these stories, both because we know they are largely accurate and because we know they are not representative of our larger field. The failure of these stories to acknowledge the long-standing lifesaving care we provide is frustrating. Still, we at The National Association see the value in such press coverage as it shines a bright light on the individuals and facilities who prey on sick and vulnerable patients and families. The scrutiny provided by the press in these cases is imperative if we hope to remove these practices from our field. Such scrutiny has contributed to positive responses including legislative and regulatory improvements and federal agency awareness.
The environment of unscrupulous practice is not news to NAATP. We saw an increase in unprofessional and unethical practices years ago and in 2012 we established theNAATP Code of Ethics. The Code describes prohibited business practices and specifically disallows deceptive marketing practices, including payment for referrals. Our goal has been to lead by example and to place good practice on display.
Still, the condition worsened and to ensure that our own members demonstrated values-based practice, a pledge of “code compliance” became a requirement for membership in The National Association. Knowing that core NAATP members adhered to these practices, we sought to educate and ensure that newer providers to the field understood what good treatment operations looked like and to educate the audience outside of our membership as well.
Yet, the environment of addiction business practices worsened. Although NAATP, as a voluntary professional membership association, is not an accrediting or policing body, we felt the need to ensure Code of Ethics compliance through a complaint process. If anyone believed a NAATP member was in violation of The Code, a complaint could now be filed and NAATP would act to educate, reform, and if necessary, remove the member.
Now, as revealed by these recent news stories, we find ourselves in a still worsening condition fueled largely by an opioid epidemic that produces a highly vulnerable population of which unscrupulous operators take advantage. It is a life and death matter for the patient and a tipping point of intolerance toward these practices by the legitimate ethical provider. As a field, we are rightly outraged.
In response, The National Association is gathering its leadership in Denver this month to finalize plans to launch an initiative for addiction treatment quality control and consumer protection. While certain details must still be confirmed, the program is designed to address improper practices including the following specific abuses:
- Patient Brokering
- Predatory Web Practices
- Urinalysis Abuse
- Up-charging and Overutilization
- Disguised “Treatment” Billing
- Bait & Switch Out of Network Schemes
- Clinical Misrepresentations
- Paid Call Center / Directory / Call Aggregation
The initiative is approved by the NAATP Board of Directors and is already supported by the premier providers in our field. It is a multifaceted initiative designed to promote best business practice, deter problematic business practice, inform law and policy makers, educate the consumer, and protect the consumer. More program details will be released as soon as they become available. Please watch for news announcements from NAATP and Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Weekly (ADAW).
In the meantime, The National Association wishes to applaud NAATP Members who represent hundreds of treatment programs across the country that provide lifesaving and life transforming services every day. We are working hard to advise the press, policy-makers, and the public of your good work. We are also gratified to see the outrage against harmful practices voiced by our members and other providers. We encourage all treatment providers to adhere to the values-based practices of the NAATP Code of Ethics and to join the efforts of The National Association.
We also urge caution and discernment as numerous interest groups arise to address this situation. It is not uncommon in a field, where problems arise, for the very interests that contribute to the problem to pose as reformers. You should know that NAATP is engaged in appropriate collaborative efforts. We have also begun meetings with federal agencies including SAMHSA in this regard.
Finally, I urge you not to despair to the point of cynicism. It is indeed a difficult time but our values must continue to guide us. Ethical providers must stay their ethical courses and refuse to engage in anything less. We will get through this together as a professional society dedicated to providing access to the finest care.
The National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers