The “Waiting” List: How Rehabs Are Holding Their Patients Hostage

Rehabs are holding their patients hostage through a clever tool called the “waiting list”.  Everyday there are thousands of people who attempt to enter a high priced recovery center in the hope that they will receive immediate help for their addictions.  I wish I could tell you that rehabs are making every effort to get these men and women treatment as fast as possible, but that simply isn’t the case.

After the paper work is finished and the tears have dried, the addict is told they will be put on a waiting list before they receive any treatment.  These lists are often long and arduous to get through.  A potential patient can be told they may have to wait anywhere from ninety days to six months before they can have a spot in rehab.  Now, anyone who has had any dealings with an addict knows this is far to long for them to wait.  An addict needs help the minute they say they do and the statistics prove it.  How in the world is it logical to believe that someone who is hooked on heroine can stay clean for six months while they are waiting to enter treatment?

I’m calling foul here.  I can because I’ve personally been put on these waiting lists.  Around six years ago I was dying from a severe prescription drug addiction and I needed help ASAP.  I called around to different rehabs and was turned down because of a lack of money, or I was told that I had to wait for a bed to open up.  I was astonished that I couldn’t get the help I needed.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it ninety minutes, much less ninety days.  I felt defeated and helpless…until I met a no cost rehab that immediately took me in.  I have been clean every since, and I can only imagine what would have happened if I would have waited on the other program’s waiting list.

I now work on the other side of this industry as a drug counselor, and I’m sick of seeing rehab’s take advantage of the needy.  The truth about the “waiting list” conspiracy is rooted in people’s greed and ambition.  I’m not saying that every rehab that has a waiting list or takes money is evil.  On the contrary, I stand with any center who has the courage to do things the right way.  What I’m talking about is those who refuse to lift a finger to get the addict help elsewhere when their own rehab’s are to packed to service them in the first place.  Why is this a conspiracy that no one will talk about?  Why does it involve greed and ambition?  Because there’s a dirty secret these rehab’s don’t want you to know.  They refuse to work with other centers to get the addict the quickest help possible.  They claim their center is the “best” and their philosophy on recovery is above all others.  Thus, it’s better for a potential client to sit on their waiting list than for them to get help elsewhere.  What a travesty!

Then there’s the money issue.  The rehab business is a multi billion dollar industry in America and it’s also one the fastest growing “businesses” today.  Simply put, there are people who make a lot of money off the backs of addicts.  I was once removed from a treatment center because my insurance didn’t want to pay for it.  (I’m glad my life was the priority.)  This wasn’t a unique experience though.  It happens hourly.  Young men and women are sent back out into the streets because they simply aren’t rich enough to pay for treatment.  Or, they are put on the “waiting list” because they are a guaranteed profit for the institution….if they can stay alive long enough to enter.

Oftentimes a rehab will also claim that their higher priced centers produce betters results, but the numbers show that lower income rehabs produce the same results for addicts as the higher priced ones.  This is called “cooking the books”.  If a rehab claims they are better than another rehab because of their facilitates then I want some proof.  How in the world is a six thousand dollar whirlpool going to help me recover from an addiction?  Yet, we buy all of these theories as facts.  We believe if something is nicer it must be better.  Nope.  Studies show that most rehabs greatly exaggerate their success rates and they do this by defining “success” in their own way.  For example, some places claim that if a student graduates from their thirteen day program then this was a “success” and they add that story to boost their numbers.  After all, why wouldn’t I wait for a certain treatment center if they had a “70 percent” guaranteed recovery rate? Are you catching my drift?

I hope I don’t sound bitter because that’s not the case.  I’m here to tell you the truth.  I personally spend hours of my life on the phone with other rehabs trying to get them to send us guys on their waiting lists.  A good bit of the time the answer is an emphatic “no”.  This caused me to challenge other centers in their approach to recovery.  How can we sleep at night while we know we could have gotten a kid into treatment and instead we chose to leave him hanging on some half hearted list?  Who will be responsible for that kid’s death when he overdoses while waiting?  This can’t be so.  The system must improve.  We are entering a critical time in our battle against addiction.  The heroine epidemic is sweeping the nation and if we don’t get ahead of it people will start to die at a rapid pace.  Enough with the excuses guys.  Enough with the politics of rehab and the greed and the ambition.  Enough with the waiting lists.  Stop holding addict’s hostage to your program.

All of this could be fixed with a simple solution.  Rehabs need to start making a greater effort to work with other rehabs, and they need to have a list of those programs available for the people they can’t service right away.  If that person can’t afford to enter your program, or if you don’t have a bed available for them, then work hard to find a center that fits their needs.  I also believe there should be a law in place that holds rehabs responsible for the deaths of addict’s who came to them for help, yet the center did nothing to help them except put them on a list.  You might find this approach extreme, but I find it plausible.  After all, what is our motive in running a rehab?  Is it to help the addicted or to line our pockets?  If we claim our motive is pure, then why aren’t we doing everything possible to help these people recover?  How can those of us in authority have an addict check into our program and then ask them to follow our examples, when our character is full of greed and ambition? How can we be so lazy and unemphatic towards the crippled?  Can the blind lead the blind any longer?  I think not.  It’s time to reform the rehab community.

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