Northeast vs South Florida Winter Client Battle Turns Warlike

1/13/2013 –ATIN – Around this time of year the Weather Channel becomes a key source of intelligence with respect the addiction treatment drug rehab alcohol rehab industry, especially on the East Coast. The reason for this is the same reason the specialty news channel is the one to watch when it comes to the hospitality industry in climes like South Florida, Mexico and points south. When things get cold up north, the battle for addiction treatment clientele who have enough money to pay for care or are well-insured heats up big time as centers in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, as well as the likes of Ohio and Michigan, find it increasingly difficult to fill their beds. The allure of pool-side, supposedly beach-filled treatment days in the South Florida sales pitches reaches its most attractive starting right about now. And the 2012/2013 winter season promises to be a particularly pitched battle. For years there has been a flood of expansion investment and new center openings in South Florida, assets set up in direct competition against significant new center and capacity expansion in the Northeast in places like Eastern Pennsylvania, which has developed into a bit of a high end addictions “hub.”

St Joseph’s Straps Up

In a significant ratcheting up of the conflict, the CEO of a tiny but prominent and highly well-regarded “faith-based’ for-profit, St. Joseph’s Institute, fired off a blistering attack yesterday on South Florida and its supposed aggressive misleading sales and marketing campaigns. And there is certainly zero doubt – nobody on either side of the battle lines would argue with this – that the campaigns are aimed at snatching up clientele right out of St. Joseph’s very own backyard, itself an attractive “lodge” type destination in the bucolic mountainous region of Central Pennsylvania. In a press release entitled “Florida Rehabs Target Addicts and Alcoholics in the Northeast” with a sub-header “Luring Patients with False Promises, Unethical Tactics,” St. Joseph CEO Michael Campbell says “we hear too many stories of being misled” by sales pitches from South Florida rehabs, which he says include websites with pictures of facilities of high luxury that don’t match the actual facilities upon arrival and promises that insurance coverages will be comprehensive and honored when in fact they are not. The result, he claims, is that “families” have been socked with entirely unexpected private pay, cash-out-pocket bills sometimes in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Implicit Recognition

One would think that, with the sweeping nature of the charges St. Joseph’s makes about South Florida marketing practices in the press release headlines, that St. Joseph’s was painting the South Florida market with a broad brush. But the body of the press release, which disappointingly DID NOT name specific treatment centers that allegedly engage in these marketing tactics, makes clear that prospective clients need to make the proper distinctions and conduct research before jumping on their choice for treatment services, recognizing implicitly in the press release the fact that there are high-quality treatment players in Florida. The press release devoted most of its space to detailing a series of steps people need to take when researching a treatment choice, steps that Treatment Magazine emphasizes need to be taken by all addicts and their families no matter where they might be from or the locale for treatment they might be considering.

The “South Florida Big Four” Deliver on Their Promises

With the bewildering array of centers to choose from, not just in South Florida and the Northeast but nationwide –Treatment Magazine distributes to about 3,000 centers – one can only imagine the bewilderment of desperate families seeking help, especially in an environment of literal bombardment of addictions Internet marketing, some of it extremely sophisticated in masking itself as “help” information and services. But with respect to South Florida, marketplace developments there have led to a natural leadership emergence of a group of players Treatment Magazine has recently begun to dub as the South Florida Big Four, Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches, BHOPB, The Florida House, The Watershed and Caron/Hanley. These four large players, each with hundreds of beds, have all made huge facilities investments in recent years and all easily have the ability, and overwhelmingly do in practice, deliver on the promises made in their marketing. And they do spend staggering and growing sums on marketing. This is with the exception of Caron, the only non-profit in the group and one that has an increasingly unique 100 percent cash-pay payor mix and spends MUCH less on marketing. And also with exception of Caron, because it is all cash-pay, all of the South Florida Big Four have highly developed utilization review capability, and some have in network insurance arrangements, so clientele have powerful and savvy advocates on the insurance front guaranteeing that reimbursements are maximized. And in the past gutsy Watershed hasn’t hesitated, and won hands down, in suing powerful insurance players like United Healthcare in the effort to paid. And Caron is increasingly focused on developing and expanding its ability to help its clientele get paid personally from their insurance coverages.

Many High Quality Small South Florida Players

While there is no question that market forces are pushing the South Florida Big Four to the forefront of the South Florida market, and by that measure the entire East Coast because so much of South Florida addiction treatment capacity services the entire eastern half of the U.S., it would be grossly unfair and ENTIRELY misleading to say that South Florida does not have big numbers of smaller very high quality “Florida Model” treatment services providers. One key example, and certainly in this case offers everything that the South Florida Big Four do, is The Wellness Resource Institute, a dual diagnosis leader owned by the nation’s largest addictions provider by far, CRC Health Corp. The list of well run, small Florida centers with proven track records is way too long to list here, but a few that come to mind are Lifeskills, The Palm Beach Institute, Beachcomber and many others.

Battle for Well-Insured Youths

One thing that will differentiate the winter season East Coast addictions battle this year will be its increasing focus on well-insured young people. An area that ObamaCare has had an immediate and very large impact on the addictions markets is in the implementation of a rule that allows young people up to their mid-twenties to remain on their parents policies. And while young people have always dominated census in South Florida, this is now becoming overwhelmingly so and it’s revaeling that St. Joseph CEO Michael Campbell never once refers to “clients” who need to become more educated and aware, but instead always refered to “families” in this respect.


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