Without spending a penny, Carla Hiers kicked a lifelong heroin habit at an upscale Cummington detox center.
But not everyone struggling with addiction can afford to get treatment at places like Swift River, raising questions about the rush to open for-profit treatment centers during a fast-growing nationwide opioid crisis.
At what was once the Swift River Academy, a school for troubled young people, the renovated Swift River facility opened last fall. One of four treatment centers in the U.S. owned by Addiction Campuses, it sits on 500 acres of wilderness that fuels its holistic approach to individualized “evidence-based” opioid addiction treatment, according to the company website.
The site says Swift River features “adventure therapy” and equine therapy, and other ways to “immerse yourself in the wild.” The company says it also treats alcohol addiction and a range of mental health disorders that can go hand-in-hand with drug and alcohol abuse.
Because of verbal exclusivity agreements with Time Magazine, Addiction Campuses spokesman Brian Sullivan said he could not speak to The Eagle about Hiers or Swift River for several months, until after Time runs its larger documentary about the fast-growing nationwide opioid crisis.
But last September, officials from Addiction Campuses, which also runs rehabs in Texas, Mississippi, and Tennessee, told the Daily Hampshire Gazette that upon opening, the center could treat 46 people, but would eventually apply for licensing to treat 120.
In that article, company CEO Brent Clements said the location was chosen for this fourth center because the website was getting so many hits from people in New England looking for help.
The website says Swift River uses the most current addiction science to inform treatment. “This includes medication-assisted therapy (MAT) to prevent relapse and ease withdrawal symptoms, and psychotherapies such as dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) to teach a new repertoire of skills for long-term success.”
It isn’t cheap. A company employee who answered the hotline number listed on the Swift River website told The Eagle that without insurance coverage, a 30-day treatment stay for heroin addiction combined with an alcohol problem and a depression diagnosis will run $25,000 “off the bat.” It can be paid in either one or two installments.
The employee said the company gives scholarships, however, and would reduce the amount to $22,500 to cover things like travel expenses or circumstances like the loss of a job due to the addiction.
In Hiers’ case, it was a full ride that made it possible for her to enter the program. And Hiers’ husband, with whom she said she is occasionally in touch, also got free treatment at Turning Point in Southaven, Miss., another high-end Addiction Campuses facility.
What is unclear, however, is what qualifies one needy person over another.
The company website presents other payment options. While it says Swift River takes a variety of insurance, another company employee told The Eagle it does not accept the state Medicaid program MassHealth. In a sympathetic tone, the employee listed off a handful of other treatment centers, all in eastern Massachusetts, that would take MassHealth.
The Addiction Campuses website says if all else fails, it offers financing, from $1,000 to $100,000, at “fair interest rates,” depending on one’s credit score, with “funds wired within 24 hours” and no “loan origination or prepayment penalties.”