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Making a treatment match

February 25, 2013
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor
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Not all treatment centers are created equal. There are excellent ones and there are terrible ones. Photos and descriptions can either convey reality….or not. Stock photos and embellished marketing material can make a sub-standard facility look good. For many clients seeking a match with a treatment center, addiction professionals who know facilities can help guide in the selection process.

But what about those who don’t have a relationship with a professional?

Don Grant, now executive director at Harmony Place in Los Angeles, understands what can happen. Thirteen years ago, his wife searched for a good treatment facility, and ultimately settled for one with an open bed. Grant found none of the promised private room, unique programming, a therapist (rather than a drug counselor), and a high success rate.

Michael Sigal had a similar experience when seeking treatment for his son, who had become addicted to prescribed benzodiazepines. After a lengthy and expensive search, his son began a 90-day program. Unfortunately, two weeks before the treatment program was to end, the facility folded. “It’s just the wild west of healthcare. There has to be a better way to do this so people have protection and they feel somewhat empowered going out looking for treatment for a loved one,” Sigal remembers thinking.  

Tapping technology

There is the dating website Match.com and the travel discount website Priceline.com that match people with specific needs with service providers. Why not clients to treatment centers? Sigal connected with Dan Reynolds, former executive director of the shuttered facility that had treated his son, to lay the groundwork for what has become BookYourCare, where Sigal is now CEO.

BookYourCare finds out what prospective clients want and what they are willing to pay.  For example, a client may specify that he or she wants a private room in a dual diagnosis facility that offers neurofeedback and equine therapy, is located in a rural desert area, and allows small dogs for less than $10,000 for a 30 day program. The system then finds treatment center providers that match all or most of the categories requested and display them to the client.

Some critics warn that matchmaking services could be dangerous to clients if they are not receiving the proper psychological assessment by a licensed professional to match them to the correct program. But, according to Sigal, BookYourCare collects detailed medical and psychiatric data, which is passed to the prospective treatment center. The treatment center determines if the client is a good match and follows up with a detailed phone assessment pre-admission to the program.

How it works

Financing for the new company will come from client payments, which are paid once a treatment center accepts the detailed information and determines that the client will probably be a good match for its program.

There is no fee for treatment centers to participate in the BookYourCare network. However, BookYourCare engages a nationwide network of reviewers who perform onsite evaluations and verify that treatment centers in the network are current, truthful, and meet standards. Not all facilities pass the review. The quality assurance verification is what caught the attention of Warren Daniels, CEO of Community Recovery Resources (Grass Valley, Calif.). “One of the things I liked about BookYourCare was that they actually sent an individual to spend almost a whole day with us asking questions and reviewing documentation around our programs, our philosophy, how we quantify quality, the level of staffing we utilize, our finances, etc.,” he says.    

‘Only time will tell’

This is a new concept and unproven in the fields of addiction and mental health treatment. Its critics emphasize the importance of a thorough psychological assessment by a licensed professional and the variety of treatment programs offered in the field. If not properly assessed, a client with a serious mental illness could end up at a facility that is very 12-Step oriented and that doesn’t really deal with people who have a severe dual-diagnosis, opines one skeptical professional.

And is the lowest price all there is? Of course not. One consultant stresses the importance of comparing addiction to other diseases, such as cancer. A woman with breast cancer, for example, should be connected to a center of excellence breast cancer treatment, rather than a general cancer facility or somewhere that has the lowest prices.

There is clearly a need for a qualified selection process for people unconnected to professionals. But will it work and will it be an effective way to match clients seeking treatment with appropriate treatment centers and programs? Only time will tell.

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