Addiction expert Rob Kent described the rampant treatment fraud targeting New Yorkers as heartless and dangerous.
In dealing with public complaints, Kent has heard stories of New York families mortgaging houses to pay for $30,000 out-of-state treatment, only to have the loved one return home still in the grips of drug addiction.
Some tales end in bankruptcy and lives broken by shady recovery programs offering little more than broken promises to New Yorkers in their darkest hours, said Kent, general counsel for New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.
The scams typically involve someone calling themselves an interventionalist, but it is actually a patient broker getting illegal kickbacks to refer addicts to unlicensed or fraudulent treatment programs.
“One family said they were offered the opportunity where if they paid this person thousands of dollars they would guarantee them access to treatment in a beautiful out-of-state treatment program,” Kent said. “They paid the money and the person disappeared.”
Kent spoke about the troubling trend as part of a crackdown in New York on the fraud. In a video, he detailed how New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, or OASAS, has expanded its outreach and educational push to warn people about the scams.
OASAS Commissioner Arlene González-Sánchez delivered a related message about pursuing addiction treatment in New York in a radio public service announcement being broadcast in English and Spanish.
“Please don’t believe when people tell you help is not available,” she said. “Don’t be lured by false promises made by fancy ads to out-of-state programs. There are over 900 certified treatment and support programs here in New York State and help is available today.”
Kent further urged New Yorkers to report suspicious patient referrals to OASAS, which is offering a range of educational outreach to get patients to legitimate treatment programs.
New York became the latest state to focus on the dark world of patient brokering that often involves shadowy addiction recovery facilities in Florida, Arizona and California.
Recruiters often use social media, texts, emails and other techniques to scam people into signing up for out-of-state addiction recovery facilities that offer little or no treatment, Massachusetts officials recently said in a consumer advisory about the scam.
“I’m getting too many phone calls from parents saying ‘My son or daughter went to a program out of state…and now they need help because they really didn’t get what they need, and I used up my insurance benefits or I mortgaged my house and now they need help,'” Kent said.
New Yorkers can report suspicious activity by calling 1-800-553-5790 or emailing StopTreatmentFraud@oasas.ny.gov.