With this week's news that a lawsuit over allegedly deceptive Internet marketing practices in the addiction treatment space has been dismissed, the facility CEO whose e-mail to colleagues last fall helped bring the Internet marketing issue publicly to the forefront suggests it is time for the field to move past the controversy.
“Don't think anything is ever gained by lawsuits,” Cirque Lodge director Gary Fisher wrote in an e-mail after learning that Seabrook House's lawsuit against Elements Behavioral Health and Recovery Brands was voluntarily dismissed in late February. “I really hope this is the start of the healing in our industry.”
New Jersey-based Seabrook on March 12 issued its own statement two days after Elements and Recovery Brands sent out press releases about the lawsuit's dismissal. In the statement, Seabrook president Edward Diehl refers to the outcome of its legal challenge, which claimed that Elements and Recovery Brands had used the Seabrook House name to generate treatment leads for Elements, as successful.
“Our intention was to affect a change in their behavior and have them cease using the Seabrook name in their listings. They did so,” Diehl said in the Seabrook statement. The statement adds that the defendants in the suit warranted that they had no record of anyone who sought information about Seabrook being directed to a facility related to Elements. The defendants also agreed not to place Seabrook House on any websites owned or operated by Elements or Recovery Brands, the latter of which operates facility directory sites such as Rehabs.com. Seabrook House in turn has agreed not to use the Elements name on any of its sites as well.
“Our name is our reputation and must never be used by any third party,” Diehl said in the Seabrook House statement.
Diehl added, “Internet advertising continues to operate like the Wild West. Until there are clear and proven legal guidelines, I encourage all provider colleagues to monitor the use of their name and brand closely.”
Utah-based Cirque Lodge's Fisher, who last year reporting tracing two instances of inappropriate use of his facility's name to services conducted on behalf of Elements and American Addiction Centers (AAC), wrote in his e-mail this week, “Certainly I would hope that the things that were exposed are stopped for good. But what I hope is that in the spirit of recovery our industry goes forward to concentrate on being the very best we can be.”
Notwithstanding the details of the matter that led to the filing of the federal lawsuit in New Jersey, the larger issue of stopping bait-and-switch marketing tactics toward consumers investigating treatment options is likely to remain tougher to resolve, given that most everyone agrees this has become rampant practice in the effort to identify attractive patient leads.