Florida: The State of Addiction Treatment, Part III

The sunny peninsula of Florida is a haven for addiction treatment centers and sober living homes. But not all treatment programs are created equal, and in fact, South Florida has been plagued in recent years by problems in the treatment industry that have threatened the reputation of all programs.

In this series, we’ll look at the state of addiction treatment in Florida, including issues facing the industry, what’s being done to address those issues and how you can find a high-quality, reputable treatment program.

Part III: How to Pick a Reputable Treatment Center

Individuals and families of individuals struggling with addiction shouldn’t have to worry about becoming a victim of deceptive treatment practices in their moment of crisis. But the reality is that they do have to worry. Separating the good from the bad and choosing a high-quality, reputable treatment program or sober living home is absolutely essential for those who are looking for help ending a drug or alcohol addiction.

What to Watch out for

Fraudulent or disreputable treatment programs aren’t too difficult to identify if you know what to look for. Here are some things to keep an eye out for when choosing a treatment program.

  • Offers to pay for travel, co-pays or deductibles. If a treatment center, sober home or referral service offers to pay for your travel or waive insurance co-pays or deductibles, think twice. They may be receiving a large kickback that makes their investment in you worth it.
  • Offers to pay your sober home rent. If someone offers to pay your sober home rent if you attend a particular treatment program, they’re probably getting paid to do so by the program.
  • A lack of interest in your history or needs. To determine whether a treatment program is right for you, a reputable program will ask a battery of in-depth questions. They may ask for access to previous treatment programs you attended or to therapists and counselors you’ve seen. These questions are essential for placing you in the right program for your unique needs. If you receive a treatment program recommendation from a source that did not collect detailed information about you, it could be fraudulent.

What to Ask

Asking a lot of questions when you’re shopping around for treatment can help you sort out the good from the bad and choose the right program for your needs. Here are some questions to ask a potential treatment facility or sober home.

1. Is the facility certified, licensed or accredited?

Sober homes aren’t required to be certified, but in general, those that are reputable will voluntarily seek certification. One organization offering certification is the Florida Association of Recovery Residences. This organization requires adherence to a variety of core principles and standards.1

Residential treatment facilities must be licensed by the state, and they may choose to be accredited by other organizations. The accreditations recognized by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration are The Joint Commission, the Council on Accreditation and the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities

2. How often do you drug test?

Disreputable sober living homes and treatment programs will often require daily or near-daily lab tests that they will bill to your insurance company.

3. What’s the staff-to-client ratio?

The lower the staff-to-client the better. Ideally, there should be no more than 15 clients per staff member. Even better is a ratio of one staff member to eight clients.

4. Are the counselors and therapists certified?

Reputable treatment programs will require that all counselors, therapists and other mental health professionals on staff are fully licensed and certified.

5. Are licensed staff members on site 24 hours a day?

For residential treatment, the answer should be yes.

6. Does the treatment center have a medical director on staff?

A medical director oversees the program and the use of any medications in treatment. Physicians on staff should be certified by the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

7. Does the treatment center offer an aftercare program?

High-quality treatment centers won’t toss you out in the cold once treatment is complete. Rather, they’ll work up a comprehensive aftercare plan that includes ongoing support and follow-up.

8. Can the treatment center address special needs?

People with a co-occurring mental illness require specialized dual diagnosis treatment, and those who have a history of trauma may require intensive treatment that addresses a range of issues. A high-quality program will usually offer specialized services, and if it doesn’t, it will refer you to a program that does.

9. Does the program use research-based treatments?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse stresses that a high-quality treatment program will use research-based treatments and adhere to industry standard treatment protocols. 2 The cornerstone of addiction treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy, which has been shown to be highly effective for treating addiction. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration recommends a holistic program that offers an individualized treatment plan and complementary therapies like yoga, nature therapy or art therapy.3

Other Things You Can Do

A little extra legwork can help you determine whether a treatment center is reputable and a good fit for you.

Schedule a tour. If possible, take a tour of the treatment or sober home facility, and ask the staff essential questions.

Do research online. Check for a website and social media presence. A high-quality treatment program will typically have its own website and a presence on social media. Is the site informative and helpful? Are there reviews on social media? Look for reviews of the program online.

Talk to alumni. If you know someone who has experience with a particular treatment program, ask about their experiences and recommendations.

Treatment Works

High-quality, reputable treatment programs in South Florida help many people successfully recover from a drug or alcohol addiction. Don’t let the existence of disreputable programs dissuade you from getting the help you need to end an addiction. A little homework will go a long way in finding a treatment programthat’s truly dedicated to helping you recover for the long-term.


  1. http://farronline.org/standards-ethics/standards/
  2. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/seeking-drug-abuse-treatment/1-does-program-use-treatments-backed-by-scientific-evidence
  3. https://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content/PEP12-RECDEF/PEP12-RECDEF.pdf

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