Recently, NPR published an article about the treatment industry and the ethical crisis it faces. The story isn’t wrong, and neither is the problem new. You can read the article here.

Of course, there are plenty, even most of us in the field, who are ethical, good people. But since I joined the field in 2010, after my sister died from the accumulated damage of her lifetime struggles with substances, I too have been dismayed to see that greed has been a major driver of many treatment centers’ businesses. 

At Lionrock, we do not do the things mentioned in the NPR piece. Sure, we’re not perfect. (Who is?). We live by our creed, which you can read here. We come from Silicon Valley and Wall Street and we’ve chosen our mission because, as we say in the creed, “We’ve witnessed addiction’s terrible destruction, and also the hard-won joy of a life in recovery.” For me personally, Lionrock is revenge against a disorder that took my sister.

In the NPR piece, Brian Mann explores a myriad of issues within the industry, the fear amongst patients and their families, the lack of government oversight or enforced ethical standards, and of course, the greed of bad actors in the category. A reader might quite reasonably come away wondering how we got here. Sadly, the answer is simple: stigma.

People with substance use disorders (SUDS) are vulnerable because society views their behavioral health disorder as a moral failure. There is no doubt that the poor judgment and bad behavior people struggling with SUDs can exhibit contributes to this. But this is part of the mental illness that drives SUDs, and the truth is that most are sick people trying to get well, not bad people trying to get good. 

That distinction makes a critical difference. The misperception of SUDs allows society to marginalize people affected by them. They look the other way or write them off as having brought it upon themselves. While I agree that recovery is their responsibility – regardless of whether the SUD is their fault, as long as this stigma persists, this population will remain marginalized and vulnerable. 

I’m proud that at Lionrock, we are pioneers of telehealth for SUD treatment. For more than a decade, we have provided care online by secure video. “Zoom meetings” may have become a cliche in 2020, but we’ve been using Zoom since 2014. Our treatment outcomes are double the national average – as strong as anyone’s in the field – and we do it without fancy accommodations, high-end chefs in the kitchen, or equine therapy. There’s nothing wrong with those things per se, but they are not required to find recovery. We keep our costs low – about a tenth of the cost of an in-patient facility – and our standards high. In fact, no one is turned away at Lionrock due to financial limitations. We have created equitable and accessible options for everyone and anyone, including free support groups which draw from our treatment protocols. At Lionrock, we don’t do “hard sell”. Frankly, it’s not necessary.

We follow the best practices protocols and provide evidence-based care. Since 2012, we’ve been accredited by the Joint Commission, which accredits more than 20,000 hospitals and healthcare providers in the U.S. They are the real deal, not just some rubber-stamp. Ask anyone in healthcare and they will tell you.

A decade ago, we saw the opportunity to use online video conferencing to revolutionize SUD care – more than half of our clients say they wouldn’t get help at all in a traditional setting. Less than 20% of people struggling with SUDs get any help at all, so we are attracting people from the previously untreated 80%. Today, we see a new opportunity to improve substance treatment: integrated life-long recovery support.

A long-term problem cannot be treated with a short-term solution. We see recovery as a lifestyle, not like curing an infection. In our experience, finding peace in mind and body is critical to avoiding relapse. Our free CommUnity meetings (open to everyone at lift up our members. The meetings come in many flavors: some traditional, some social, some practical. We believe that recovery requires regular renewal that depends on personal growth. Seeking treatment at Lionrock means joining a community that supports you from your first day in recovery onward. As our members’ recovery changes and matures, we are ready with tools and experiences for their next phases of growth. 

The abuse problem in our field – at its base – is driven by stigma. When the sick aren’t valued, they aren’t protected. At Lionrock we are fighting that stigma every day.