Thursday, July 1, 2010

Searching for Addiction Rehab

The perils of online rehab finders.

CALL NOW FOR HELP, say the sites designed to assist people in locating addiction treatment services in their area. But when you call that 800 number to speak to a “rehab counselor,” chances are you end up getting a sales pitch for a specific for-profit chain of rehab centers, rather than an objective survey of all available resources and how they might fit your personal needs.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that the simple act of reaching out for help, for pertinent resources, is sometimes perilous online. Everybody’s got something to sell, it seems. Few sites offer objective information in detail, without special pleading of one sort or another.  Even Scientology, working under the alias of Narconon, has its own rehab register, featuring the 120 drug and alcohol centers operated according to the principles of that well-known expert on drug and alcohol problems, L. Ron Hubbard.

One workaround is to stick with government sources. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) has a decent one HERE.  But even government rehab finding pages are one-size-fits-all affairs, and sometimes suffer from a lack of regular updating.

Recently, the All About Addiction (A3)  website has rolled out a new rehab finder with some nice features that should go a long way toward filling the gap. Adi Jaffe, the site’s director and the motivating force behind the creation of the new rehab finder, is working on his PhD in Psychology at UCLA.  Jaffe’s original idea for a call center gradually morphed into a plan for an online tool. In an interview with Addiction Inbox, Jaffe expanded on the rationale for putting together a rehab finder he believes addresses some of the shortcomings found on other sites:

 “I decided to put together the rehab finder because I thought it was sad that with all the technology we have, the best way to find treatment was either to do a general Google search (cue paid ads by providers that charge a lot and can therefore pay for advertising) that results in lists upon lists of providers, or go the SAMHSA treatment locator, which only searches by location,” Jaffe explained in an email exchange. “I thought we could do better. I believe that if we can make it easier for people to find the right treatment we will increase enrollment in treatment because people will find treatment they can afford, and improve treatment outcomes because the treatment-client fit will improve.”

A further refinement is represented by a 20-question survey.  Questions about gender, employment status, health insurance, and mental health are designed to narrow the field of pertinent recommendations. Detailed questions about drug use, including amount spent per month, are also included. What the new rehab finder does NOT ask for is your name, your phone number, or your e-mail address, as other such sites commonly do. So there is no danger of follow-up sales calls or spam.

“For the most part, we don’t match people based on the treatment approach (CBT, MI, 12 step, or others), that’s been tried and failed – there seems to be little difference and we don’t know how to match there yet,” Jaffe said. “What we do is match on gender, age, insurance, mental health status, specific addiction specialty, and other factors like the need for detox, or specific treatments for specific drugs (like buprenorphine for heroin).”

Jaffe is now seeking funds for a study of the new finder’s effectiveness.  “I’d like to set up a few different versions (including a location-only search like SAMHSA’s) and see if our version works better,” he said. “It also lends itself to constant improvement based on the actual results obtained.”

As the A3 site says: Rehab is hard. Finding it shouldn’t be.

Graphics Credit:


Dr. Mark Agresti said...

I agree that many of the current rehab / treatment finder sites fall short for those in need. The last thing a skeptical addict or alcoholic (who is still not completely out of the denial phase of their recovery) needs is a ton of sales calls for services that don't match their needs. It's just one more thing to give them an excuse not to get help, and no one wants that.

I think a study of these finder sites should target both the addicts / alcoholics as well as their family members and friends who may be researching treatment options for them. Even treatment centers taking the time to ask patients (or their families) why their treatment center was chosen among all the rest could go a long way toward enlightening us as to what kind of factors should be taken into account for the treatment search process and any resulting tools or websites.

The questionnaire is a good start, and I think more treatment facilities should incorporate such a survey during preliminary consultations. How else would you and the patient know that your facility is right for them? Perhaps if more of us do this, we'll start to see an influx of patients who achieve their sobriety more completely.

Vorobiev said...

It's good if the rehab clinic is able to provide some testimonials and statistics, of course, all of which they must be able to back up.

Empty arguments don't tell anything, so results must be seen.

I think it's important to be patient and explain the treatment in the most understandable way.

The patient and their family must trust the doctors in order to entrust his or her life with them.

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