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State investigation of RCA prompts industry caution

August 31, 2017
by Julie Miller and Gary Enos, Editors
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The Massachusetts Department of Public Health last week halted all new admissions to a Recovery Centers of America (RCA) residential facility near Boston, citing safety concerns. According to the Boston Globe, the department is investigating the center after reports of a patient death in recent weeks.

In an emailed statement, RCA said:

“The Department of Public Health is following their process in a routine and appropriate manner. We are in close cooperation with them so that we can get back to treating the increasing number of people who are suffering from addiction. Meanwhile, we continue to work with our current patients and their families along their road to recovery.”

RCA’s growth

Backed by private equity firm Deerfield Management, RCA has grown quickly in the Northeast, with a goal of operating 1,200 beds by the end of the year. Its portfolio includes five residential facilities and various outpatient services in five states, which are accredited by the Joint Commission. The company is owned by real estate investor Brian O’Neill.

A joint investigation by the Globe and STAT, based in part on interviews with current and former RCA employees as well as state documents, led to a Globe report chronicling numerous problems with patient care at RCA’s two Massachusetts centers. Some of the problems included unit understaffing, lack of supervision of patients, and failure to report safety-related incidents to state authorities.

Nearly 200 testimonial letters from employees, patients and their loved ones, expressing support for RCA were posted by the organization online in response to the Globe article.

“Regardless of what the outside world thinks, we know about the amazing things that happen within these walls,” writes one patient.

“While there are many bad actors in the field … RCA is not one,” writes an industry insider.

NAATP review

The National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP) has renewed its focus on industry ethics in recent months, putting ethical standards in writing and vowing to review any member organization that might be in question. Membership can be denied to programs that don’t meet NAATP standards.

RCA is a member, and NAATP Executive Director Marvin Ventrell says that the association is aware of the RCA matter.

“Yes, we have a serious concern when a state regulatory body finds violations of regulations and prohibits new admissions,” Ventrell says. “We are moving the matter through our review process.”

Widespread concern

As a whole, the treatment community remains concerned about public perception of addiction treatment centers. When a media report shines a light on the industry, as the Boston Globe has done, it’s often a story with a negative spin.

Vic DiGravio, president and CEO of the Association for Behavioral Healthcare in Massachusetts, says a state investigation is concerning to all providers—although RCA is not a member of the state’s association.

“It does worry us when we hear about providers being accused of offering poor care because such instances are not a reflection of the entire industry,” DiGravio says. “We fully support the efforts of the Department of Public Health to investigate the serious allegations noted in the Globe article. There should be no room in our industry for organizations that prey on individuals and families when they are most vulnerable.”

 

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