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Addiction Recovery News #1 – What You Need to Know That A Treatment Facility May Not Want to Tell You

Mon 2 August 2021 News & Press

Addiction Recovery News #1 – What You Need to Know That A Treatment Facility May Not Want to Tell You

by Susan B. Ramsey | August 2, 2021

Simply put, Addiction (Substance Use Disorder) is an inability to stop using a substance or engaging in a behavior even though it is causing psychological and physical harm. The term addiction refers to more than dependence on illegal substances such as heroin or cocaine.   According to SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), it is approximated that at least 20 to 23 million Americans age 12 or older needed treatment for substance abuse and addiction.  Unfortunately, only about 4 million of those 23 million receive it.  It is also estimated that substance use disorder causes 500 million lost workdays a year and costs the U.S. economy over $600 billion a year.  

Drug and alcohol abuse treatment is a booming industry.  While there are many exemplary treatment facilities, there are also facilities that are ill equipped at best and deadly at worst.   Moreover, with the advent of more recovery residences (sober homes) there are lots more questions that should be asked.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) created a brief guide containing these initial inquiries:

  1. Does the program use treatment backed by scientific evidence? Ask the facility what the scientific rationale for their programs is.  Does it utilize medical management, medications, and/or other types of interventions? You will find that there are several different treatment modalities and each one needs to be analyzed separately and on its own merits. 
  2. Does the program tailor its treatment to the needs of each patient? Specifically, is the treatment “one size fits all”, or does it have different programs or tracks? Does the facility address the needs of patients with “dual diagnosis” or “co-occurring disorders”, such as, eating disorders, or hypertension, and other medical or psychiatric conditions?  
  3. Does the program adapt treatment as the patient’s needs change? How does the treatment facility make these assessments and recommendations?  For example, if it becomes evident that a patient needs additional medical or psychiatric services, how does it ensure that the needed services happen in a timely and appropriate manner? 
  4. Is the duration of the treatment sufficient? Specifically, different programs have different ideology regarding this issue.  There are some programs that are many months in duration.  Others are much more short term.  This again will depend on the specific needs of the specific patient and needs to be discussed and addressed. 
  5. How do 12 step or other similar recovery programs fit into the facility’s substance abuse treatment? There are different programs that have different ideologies and philosophies as to what best works.  Again, each individual needs to be evaluated for their suitability to a specific program.    
  6. How does the facility address a patient/client who is experiencing a recurrence of their substance abuse (relapse)? The answer to this is critically important particularly for recovery residences (sober homes).  Is there a documented plan that is reviewed with the patient/client and family members or emergency contacts at the TIME OF ADMISSION?   Consider having a loved one sign a Release of Information so there is absolutely no question as to who needs to be contacted if this unfortunate event occurs and have a plan.

These are general overview questions that will hopefully educate the prospective patient/client and/or family member.  Once you have gotten to this point, if the facility is well run and above aboard, they will answer these questions without hesitation.       

  1. Has the facility had any complaints lodged against it? In Florida, the State Agency that licenses Substance abuse facilities is the Department of Children & Families. (  If the facility is in another state, ask it who licenses it and whether there have been any complaints (and then check yourself).  As to recovery residences – in Florida, check with the Florida Association of Recovery Residences Currently, recovery residences are not REQUIRED to be FARR Certified but if they are not, ask why.       BWhere are the patients going to stay? While the marketing brochures may look fabulous the reality of the facility may not match. Fire code safety and a sanitary facility have and may be issues. 
  2. Who are the patients going to stay with? Is the facility co-ed and how does the facility maintain boundaries?   
  3. Ask what the “success rate” of their program is? According to the SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates that relapse rates for addictive diseases usually range in the range of 50 to 90% and there are a number of different factors relating to this.  So, you want to ask what are this facility’s follow-up studies relative to success rates, and how they base success.   If you are told some very high number for a “success” rate – ask them about the SAMSHA statistics.   
  4. Ask about the staff.   How many professional licensed staff members are there versus non-professional?  Specifically, who are the people that are going to be interacting with your loved one on an hour to hour – day to day basis?   In Florida, as well as other states, there are certifications and license requirements for para-professional and professional staff members who work in this field.    While 12 step programs encourage peer to peer support, utilizing other non-licensed individuals in recovery as the main therapy model has several pitfalls.   
  5. More about the staff.   Do not be afraid to ask the hard questions, what are the backgrounds of these folks? Have any of these individuals had any complaints, felony charges, criminal complaints, and the like, filed against them?   It is not uncommon in this industry to have recovering substance abusers help those just beginning their own recovery, and some of these people have had difficult pasts. These individuals can be wonderful and truly help others but there are those who have no business working with vulnerable patients.   Ask about the supervision of those caring for your loved ones or yourself.    

Substance abuse treatment facilities and Recovery Residences have enabled millions of people to get back to productive effective lives. It is our hope that if you or your loved one needs such treatment that you do the homework and investigate and find the right facility! 

It’s hard enough that you or your loved one is struggling with addiction.  If you have questions related to an issue with a treatment facility or sober home, we can help you understand your legal rights. Please contact us at (561) 659-4020 for a free consultation. 

Stay Safe, Susan


Ms. Ramsey’s professional experience began as a Registered Nurse in the Intensive Care Unit at Yale New Haven Hospital. While pursuing her Bachelors’ Degree, she was a Counselor with the New Haven Rape Crisis Program. During her time with the Program, Ms. Ramsey counseled sexual assault survivors and performed seminars for local police departments, universities, and high schools. During her time working as a registered nurse, Ms. Ramsey attended law school. Ms. Ramsey graduated from City University of New Law School at Queens College.

She has spoken and presented publications for numerous organizations, including nursing and professional lawyer associations. She has published several articles for nursing journals and legal publications. Ms. Ramsey is an active member of the American Association of Nurse Attorneys, National Crime Victims Bar Association, American Justice Association; Palm Beach County Bar Association; Palm Beach County Justice Association; and the Florida Justice Association. Ms. Ramsey is a Florida Licensed Health care Risk Manager.

She has received several awards for community service, including the Arnold Markle award by the Judicial District in New Haven, Connecticut, for her work with survivors of sexual assault.  Ms. Ramsey is currently a member of the Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force, a Pro Bono Counsel to the Florida Association of Recovery Residence Compliance Committee. She is an active participant in grass roots organizations which support individuals who suffer from Substance Use Disorder.

Ms. Ramsey is privileged to actively litigate cases on behalf of survivors involving sexual assault and other catastrophic injuries. These cases include injuries suffered by victims of negligence, medical and therapeutic negligence, poor substance abuse treatment and inadequate security.