When one hears the story of rehab mogul Chris Bathum, it is easy for one to dismiss him as an exception in the world of the treatment industry and clean and sober living houses. He has been convinced of multiple crimes in relation to his clean and sober houses and “rehab” centers: sexual assault, fraud, grand theft, and money laundering. In addition, his claims to be a psychotherapist, which was a claim that helped him to bring in clients and justified his use of therapies (or lack thereof) in his rehabs. In addition, he exploited patient’s insurance plans by charging more than one at a time, and sometimes took out insurance plans for patients without their knowledge.
When it came to Bathum’s clean and sober houses, he provided internships to people, particularly women, who could not afford his clean and sober living/rehabs, and then exploited them with this in order to gain sexual favors from them. He also gave the patients he was supposed to be treating drugs, and has been accused of giving women in his care drugs in exchange for sex. In fact, he reportedly overdosed while doing drugs with his patients. Obviously, he was harming patients more than he was helping them. It seems unfathomable that a person would prey on vulnerable people such as this, and of course raises serious concern. But, the truth is that this happens more often than one would imagine among the owners and employees of rehabs and sober living houses.
Part of the reason why this happens so often is because there is little oversight of sober living houses due to ADA (American Disability Act) regulations. When it comes to rehabs, since the rise of Obamacare, insurance companies are required to pay for rehab and treatment, which makes it easier for them to access treatment. This, of course, was meant to help addicts gained access to rehab and treatment. What really happened, though, is that the owners of rehab facilities and clean and sober houses were able to charge a lot of money to patients with very little oversight as to how this money was being put to use in terms of their treatment. And, predators and criminals like Chris Bathum were and are attracted to work or run rehabs/sober living homes because of the amount of money involved and the lack of oversight as to what actually happens in rehabs and clean and sober living. Basically, they can get away with whatever they want, including the inadequate care of patients and the abuse of them.
Thus, this push to “help” addicts and alcoholics through Obamacare actually has resulted in a treatment industry that preys on some of the most vulnerable members of society. And, an additional problem is that although funding was made available for rehab stays, the rehabs and treatment centers themselves were not required to actually change their treatment in any way or held to any stricter standards than before this change occurred. Most rehabs are based off of 12 step programs and include psychotherapy and medication management, however, it is known that these methods only produce a 20% success rate, and that this success rate is seen as an acceptable one within rehabs. Thus, treatment facilities do not have to worry if they have low success rates in their rehab, as this is seen as normal. This, of course, does not encourage improvement on the part of rehabs or of the treatment industry in general. Instead, addicts and alcoholics are subject to sub-par treatments with very low success rates, and, instead of being treated with evidence-based scientific forms of treatment, they are treated with 12 step techniques that are not based in any scientific or medical treatments or theory. And, now that Obamacare has required insurance companies to fund treatment for addicts/alcoholics, treatment centers can earn large amounts of money for their rehabs without having to worry about fulfilling adequate standards of care.
Furthermore, chemical dependency counselor and other employees in treatment center do not even need a four year degree to practice as counselors. In Washington State, for example, one can become licensed as a chemical dependency counselor after only a year of classes that pertain to chemical dependency, much of which do not provide the necessary knowledge to fully tackle all of the issues that come along with working with patients with drug and alcohol use disorders. I, myself, almost became a chemical dependency counselor and was a Chemical Dependency Professional Trainee for some time until I had to give that path up due to worsening health issues. What I experienced in the one year program that I went to is that the classes did not fully cover counseling methods, mental health disorders, the many reasons why a person might drink and use, and seemed to have classes that seemed unnecessary as well. In other words, we learned things we didn’t need to know while not learning what we did need to know to adequately work with and treat those with substance use disorders. During my year long stint at becoming certified in terms of the classes needed to do so, I was aghast to find the inadequacy of the program that I was attending. And, the instructors were incredibly lenient with their grading systems to the point of where I was in total shock at how little one had to do to get A’s in classes and pass them and to earn the certificate in chemical dependency counseling. The general consensus among me and the other students was that as long as you met the attendance requirement and did the work (irregardless of the quality of your work) you could pass the program without having to really apply yourself in the least. I tried to tell myself that this must be because the CDP program was at a community college rather than a university, but years later I see that this is no justification for the lack of standards that these students and future chemical dependency counselors were held to.
Even though this experience of mine happened at one college, it makes me wonder if this type of leniency with students in chemical dependency programs is widespread. I can’t be sure of it happens on a widespread basis, but my gut says that it probably does. Plus, the curriculum used was the standard curriculum for Washington State Programs for chemical dependency and I’m assuming reflect the overall US standards for the education of Chemical Dependency Professionals. Thus, just like the standards for US treatment centers are dismal, so seems the standards of the education that is required to become a Chemical Dependency Professional.
Because of this, it’s no wonder that the treatment industry is failing patients so badly, as the problem is not just the treatment industry itself but the inadequate education that one achieves in order to work in that industry. Because of this and the serious issues in today’s treatment industry, activist Monica Richardson argues that all treatment counselors should earn a bachelor’s degree plus a Master’s Degree in order to work as a counselor with patients. I completely agree with this, because why should mental health professionals be required to have a Master’s Degree whereas Chemical Dependency Professionals only need an associates that provides strikingly little in terms of education? Obviously, change needs to start from root of the problem, which is the lack of requirements to become a Chemical Dependency Counselor and to work as a professional in a treatment center, and the lack of professionals such as doctors, nurses, and psychologists in treatment centers.
When I look back at my experiences, too, in outpatient chemical dependency treatment, I reflect on the fact that I knew more about chemical dependency and counseling that the CDP’s there did due to what I had learned in as an undergraduate and graduate student in Psychology. I was constantly correcting them when they stated misinformation in front of the group, which happened practically on a daily basis, which of course they hated me for. And, I remember being extremely frustrated at the lack of correct and scientific information at the treatment center that I attended. This treatment center was not even one that was as based in the 12 steps as many others are. I can’t imagine how frustrated I would have been at a traditional 12 step treatment facility. Because of my mounting frustration and anger over the misinformation and ignorance at that treatment facility, I never completed the full two-year treatment program that I signed up for and left after only a few months of outpatient treatment. Looking back, I wish that I had worked one on one with a mental health professional in order to stop drinking rather than attending a treatment facility where I knew more than the CDP’s there and were misinformation was presented to patients on a regular basis. The inadequacy that I experienced there was actually one of the reasons why I almost became a CDP; I was hoping that with my Master’s Degree and the CDP certificate that I could move into a managerial position in a treatment facility and bring some change to the patients there and truly help them. But, that did not come to pass, so today I find other ways to help people with substance use issues, and not through AA.
If you, like me, have had or heard of bad experiences within the treatment industry, I urge you to share about it publicly if you feel able to do so. Start a blog, put up a YouTube video, and/or talk to others about your experience. The more that we publicize what really happens within the treatment industry of the US today, the more likely it is that we will see some change and possibly government oversight into it. I hope that you will join me in our quest to better so many people’s lives in this way.
Here is the article from the Daily Beast concerning Chris Bathum. I urge you to read it and research his case.
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