State Officials Warn Of Drug And Alcohol Treatment Scams

Recruiters may offer insurance payment coverage and free rent.

Shelby Cassesse
June 08, 2018 - 10:45 am
State officials warn about drug and alcohol treatment scams.

Photo By: Commonwealth Media Services

PITTSBURGH (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) - State officials have issued a warning to Pennsylvanians about out-of-state addiction treatment and sober living home scams. 

Despite the availability of treatment centers in Pennsylvania, recruiters will often attract out-of-state patients with free flights, insurance payment coverage and free rent.

Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman says these are just some of the warning signs that the offer is a scam.

"Recruiters often use text messages or social media to recruit patients, and recruiting attempts are most common for treatments centers in Arizona, California and Florida," she said at press conference Thursday. "There are also ads in daily newspapers, as well. So do your research, and if something seems too good to be true, it probably is."

In addition, out-of-state addiction treatment scam recruiters will contact victims with unsolicited referrals and ask for personal information like Social Security numbers and insurance policy ID numbers. 

Not only could these scams result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in bills or eventual eviction from the facility, but also death. Secretary of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Jennifer Smith says the treatment provided at these facilities can be inadequate. 

"Facilities that use these aggressive tactics tend to provide erratic treatment or no treatment at all," she said. "At least three Pennsylvanians died while seeking treatment out-of-state in the past year."

Lizz DeWolfe, founder of Not One More In Wyoming County, lost her son J.J. Baker in 2015 when he overdosed at 23 following a stay at a treatment facility in Florida. Baker sought treatment at a Florida facility after they offered him free rent. During his stay, Baker’s parents received a $208,000 for drug testing. When he received a prescription from a doctor for testosterone, he was evicted from the home because the prescription was against the home’s rules. Three days later, he died in his car from a heroin overdose.

“My hope is by telling my story other parents won’t go through what I did,” DeWolfe said. “Other parents need to know how important it is to do your research, ask questions, get referrals, see what the laws are in that state. If you receive a bill from the insurance company that feels out of the ordinary, don’t be afraid to ask questions. If I only would have known what I know now there is a chance my son would still be here.”

The Washington Post reported earlier this year federal and state authorities in Florida charged the operators of one of these programs with $58 million in fraudulent insurance claims. 

If you are concerned that an addiction treatment scam is targeting you, ask if the sober or recovery home is registered or certified by a state agency or designee. In addition, call your Single County Authority or PA Get Help Now at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) before making a financial commitment.