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When Rehabs Look at Patients as Dollar Signs

“The whole system is designed to keep people in it, I think.”

“Statistically, you’re wasting your money sending your kid to rehab,” Scott Steindorff tells me without a second of hesitation. “I have three grown kids and I’ve come to the conclusion that if one of them had a [substance abuse] problem, I wouldn’t know where to send them.”

Steindorff, the Hollywood producer whose eclectic credits include the movie Chef and the TV series Las Vegas, has turned his sights on overhauling the $35 billion-a-year rehab industry that’s now coming under fire. “There’s not one facility in the world that’s getting the job done,” he argues. “If you find a rehab center that really gets it, call me—and I’m being serious.”

At the moment, many agree with Steindorff: there’s virtually no shortage of cautionary NPR pieces, disturbing news features, and almost-weekly stories of arrests and busts. In fact, one NPR exposé reported that a convicted rehab owner had “billed insurance companies for more than $58 million in bogus treatment and tests, and recruited addicts with gift cards, drugs and visits to strip clubs.” It’s clear that the rehab industry may be at a critical crossroads, as it needs as much saving as the millions of Americans seeking help themselves.

My good friend Mike Verlie, who just celebrated four years of sobriety after a decade-long heroin addiction, credits sober housing for helping him find his footing and, well, saving his life. But he’s also keenly aware that good sober homes are few and far between.

“The problem lies in that [sober homes] are mainly privately-owned and non-regulated at all,” he notes. “Some may claim to follow non-profit guidelines, but in reality, it’s mostly just a single guy or a couple of people who own houses and call them sober houses.”

Many of these “houses,” Verlie says, cram more people than are legally allowed by fire standards into places that are poorly funded (at best). In fact, many of them are simply way stations between rehab centers, sometimes getting kickbacks for each referral. “A good sober house is a rarity,” Verlie says.

Sadly, shady ethics aren’t limited to homeowners operating businesses that are little more than treadmills leading right back to treatment centers.

Sometimes, it’s a lot bigger than just one specific person or center…

How do we create rehabilitation options that don’t view patients as dollar signs? Learn more in the original article The Unethical Side of Addiction Treatment at The Fix.

When Rehabs Look at Patients as Dollar Signs

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APA Reference
Guest Author, P. (2018). When Rehabs Look at Patients as Dollar Signs. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 31 Dec 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.