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  • Writer's pictureKevin Phillips

Standards, Accountability, & Oversight

Recently the New York Times published an article exposing that a number of addiction treatment programs that had defrauded the state of Arizona out of $1 billion, and failed to help the people they claimed to be supporting.

"She had tumbled into what prosecutors and tribal leaders call one of the largest, most exploitative frauds in Arizona’s history", the article reported, "-- a scheme in which hundreds of rehab centers provided shoddy or nonexistent addiction treatment to thousands of vulnerable Native Americans that cost the state as much as $1 billion. Scores of people ended up homeless, still struggling with untreated addiction, officials say."


Two things make this story grievous. First, there is the lost lives and the lost opportunity to work on their recovery in an environment of genuine support. Second, there is the possible undermining of the efforts made by so many who invest in genuine recovery, programs that truly help people rebuild their lives.

A legitimate Substance Use Disorder treatment program knows the science of recovery, including the neurobiology as well as the theoretical framework for therapy. Sadly, not every treatment program knows what they are doing. And not every Sober Living Home supports sober living.

"Some homes conducted regular drug tests and had zero tolerance," the article reported. Others looked the other way while people smoked meth and drank in their bedrooms."

We are grateful for our partners who hold us accountable to real standards of treatment.

In California the Department of Health Care Services licenses treatment programs. They published standards and hold us accountable for our work. We submit Incident Reports to DHCS to keep them informed of unusual events that occur from time to time, and to even inform them of more common events like when we transport a patient to the ER because as a patient is detoxing, he begins to present with symptoms that MAY require medical attention.

We also partner with Partnership HealthPlan of California who audits our work annually. Note: We consistently score between 94% and 100%. And anytime when we score less then 100%, we conduct a root cause analysis to discover what small thing we missed. We create a plan to do better.

We are under no illusion that we will ever achieve perfection (so many items are scrutinized and asses). We also know that "better" is always a goal worth striving for.

We were recently surprised by two investigators who showed up at our office. They came to do an unannounced inspection of our program, including our Sober Living Homes.

They spent close to seven hours with our Program Manager. They reviewed our records. They visited every facility. The interviewed the PM.

The auditors were impressed (the term "blown away") was used to describe their response to their investigation. They told the PM, "This is the best facility we have seen."

When the PM reported the results to the Executive Director, the ED responded, "Okay, great. But did they have any recommendations for where we could improve?"

ARS strives not only for excellence, but we also strive to excel beyond the most recent assessment of excellence. The risk of falling short comes with every new day and with every new employee we hire.

I read the article about the tragic situation in Arizona with grief. With the help of the ARS, my hope is that we never become the subject of a story like this. My hope becomes confidence for two reasons:

  1. We are committed to training our staff and holding them to the highest of ARS standards. And,

  2. We embrace our accountability partners who we welcome into our facilities to scrutinize our work and to hold us accountable to our commitment to do the best we can for the people who come to us seeking help.

Standards, Accountability, and Oversight are our friends. They help us become better and better every day.


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