« Reveal

Inside a Rehab Empire

2018-05-31 | 🔗

The collision of the opioid epidemic with criminal justice reform has created a boom for the rehab industry. Those with wealth and insurance often are able to pay thousands of dollars for private long-term programs. But the less fortunate have become easy prey for rehabs with a tantalizing promise: freedom from addiction for free.

Reveal reporters Amy Julia Harris and Shoshana Walter have been uncovering the ways that some of these rehabs exploit their desperate clients. In this episode, they describe to host Al Letson the shocking things they found at one rehab in the mountains of North Carolina.

Don’t miss out on the next big story. Get the Weekly Reveal newsletter today.

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Hey. It is your favorite host in all of pod custom. Now for the rest of the year, I'm gonna be asking you to join us by becoming a member of reveal reveal is all about going deep, pulling on threads telling stories that matter for more than three years now reveal has been fighting a lawsuit. That's been jeopardizing our very existence of restore we about an organization called planet aid. Our story raises serious questions about whether international aid was actually reaching the people. It was intended to help and what's more, our story was truthful and we stand by it. We believe it's our duty to fight attacks like this, but fighting a lawsuit comes at a huge costs, are legal fees alone totalled more than seven million dollars? Luckily, we have pro bono legal support to help our in house counsel, but it still takes significant resources, resources that should be used to do more public service journalists. This kind of investigative,
It takes time and it cost money. If you believe in the work, we do the absolute best way to support us is by becoming a member of reveal to do it just text. The word reveal two hundred and forty seven, four thousand seven hundred and forty seven standard data rates apply and you can text stop or cancel at any time Also, all new members who donate at least five dollars a month. We get our facts, t shirt again. Just text reveal two hundred and forty seven, four thousand seven hundred and forty seven. And all you who already support our work. I would offer a deep sincere thanks. We can't do this work without being willing afforded twenty twenty. We have big things plan. So, let's go to some good work together from the interval for investigative reporting in p r exe, is reveal a mallet in haze is sitting in the middle of a bustling cafe, talking to reveal or borders, Amy Julia Harris and shall shallow water. I feel free to have as much
This is why I got a trial. No, no! I don't over fries and grilled cheese sandwiches. They talk about what have been at a drug we have outside of Asheville North Carolina in was a client. When he was struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, afterwards, he actually went work their full time? Go ahead? Why nor are the bodies are very noisy anyway. Secrets to tell about the programme called covering connections community meanest, forty four? years old, but walks and talks swagger a much younger man Brad telephone always telling it like. It is no matter the consequences he's battled with chronic addiction most his life and likely to suffer most of the time, but not always keep a real recovery connections, is free and opens its doors to people like in Hell,
It would then other wrote the desperately need get somewhere. They can go back to arouse. You know the white, take them out the long wherever they got. Nobody go this people are really don't have any options that catch while recovery can since its free there's some ground rules for everyone in the programme they get housing in food and in exchange they after work full time jobs at local businesses, Work work, work, work, work and recovery connections keeps all there most other programme, words sounds funded. Is the residents working and them it has made on. The jobs goes back into the programme, but over time begin I doubt whether money was going. Programmes founder Jennifer, worn was always talking about money? I need to make some money. I my money. Slight, that's gonna, we're out, like you know what this rostrum to get. This means is
before demanded that people work around the clock See now is more every day the more they worked. The movement they brought in but even says? Instead go into the programme. He saw me going somewhere else into Jennifer's pockets He grew so disillusioned that he couldn't job there. Any Julie and show China Walter are here with me in the studio talk about what they found a low Ladys, how Hale so sure? How did you to get onto this While we wrote about one rehab programme in Oklahoma last year, that was essentially sending people to work at chicken plants. A lot of these people who were going to the three happen working had never been convicted of crimes. They were in court diversion programmes, for drug and alcohol issues, so they were sent to the three have to get treatment, but they basically were forced to work for free and chicken processing plants, making food fur Walmart Popeye's KFC many.
Or hurt, and many of them were basically working under threat of prison. So this programme North Carolina recovery connections. Community also calls itself a drug, we have facility and they also send their clients to work, but instead of chicken plants they sent to work, is caregivers at assisted living homes, to take care of the elderly and disabled, so tell me operational works. Well, it's a two year long programme. They basically spend the majority of them. I am working in these contract jobs at care homes they don't get. All the money goes to the rehab programme and they work more than sixteen hours per day as caregivers for elderly, disabled and mentally ill patients. There changing their diapers other bathing them. There are sometimes dispensing medications helping to feed them and they don't really get much training if any training at all than most of these jobs, Amy Julia. How does this help them? In this
the drug rehabilitation, what their told initially when they got into the programme, is at this structure and work is gonna, be good for them. It's gonna, keep their mind off drugs idle hands are bad. Work is supposed to help them but, when their working in these facilities, the facilities are often a wash in drugs and Sean mentioned some of these recovery, Drug addicts are actually tasked with dispensing narcotics and opiates things went wrong. All the time so people told us that, on the job drugs acts were common, people would steal prescription p. Killers and snort them. Often if they were cast with dispensing drugs, which It also were allowed to do. You're supposed to have a special state certification to do that, they would take drugs meant for the patience and for themselves and we actually talk to anyone who you heard from earlier, who got the insight scoop on some of this and he's too
driving how these drug? That's where routine saw the residents were going and discharge containers and taking the Lille empty residual classic containers of morphine, on the one cup to accumulate enough to get he's talking about right. There's the sharps containers are the medical waste, as are the garbage. And for a lot of this and people would go in there and steal the residual morphine. I think that was pretty common was that people would steal sentinel pain patches, which are the patches meant for going chronic pain and they slowly release pain killers that they would just take those off of the residence for themselves and even to describing that as well. Drugs out of the other residents that had patches
Take your badge is often within such a family or do suddenly get it couple. Women did. I did they take out now you don't get kicked out for relapsing. We actually found that, for most people who go to this programme, but doesn't really helped them at all. I mean most people don't make it to the two, your mark so sure genre. Why would people who struggling with addiction work with vulnerable people in the system. Living facilities at a full of drugs. It at that, just as we make a lot of sense, basically, that I dont care homes contract with recovery connections, as if they are kind of like a staffing agency and its cheap. They don't have to pay workers compensation, it ought to pay insurance we'll have to pay over time. Some of the facilities are only paying minimum wage further recovery connections, workers which is about seven twenty five and our so it's it's cheap source of labour for them will
facilities would take these people won't. We wanted to know that too, so we actually went to one of these facilities. This is back in December. It's called camp. Living center. We went there around nine o clock at night. It was super dark. There were trees all over the place is kind of seclude This would at rural area and in the parking lot we actually found a recovery connections. Worker and we followed him inside through this kind of flimsy what, door totally unsecured We walked down Damn we lit hallway into this kind of cafeteria area. There were people everywhere was totally chaotic. There was this: loud radio going on people
around pacing, back and forth, and to the right of us? There was this open office where all the meds were me he held me no prescription pain, killers and all sorts of medication to mobilise, would be their opiates would be in their absolute Lee and people were just running in and out in all there were residents running out of their staff. Member no one really asking who we were, what we were doing their Amy Julia. Did you guys get a chance to talk to any of the companies it own these homes, we talk to a lot of them and one of them, the the company that owns candour living had said that they contract with the recovery centre because their cheap reliable source of labour and they said that they thought they were doing a good saying that they were giving these people struggling the direction a chance to gain job experience. What they said, though, was they ve never had any problems with these rehab workers whatsoever which-
and a surprising, because when we talk to a lot of the rehab work as a former employees of these facilities. They ve said that this the arrangement was a bad idea. There were drug thefts, nothing we did not touch upon. Was there a lot of allegations of sexual assault as well? There is some really serious cases, seven cases we had identified where these rehab workers were accused. Sexually assaulting patients at the care homes? Tell me more about their. What did you learn about the assault in what happened we? About these assaults from employees at these care homes and many of them are so concerned, because none of the incidents they said had ever been reported to authorities which has required under law, so Some of the allegations were very serious. There was one rehab worker who is accused of sexually assaulting deceit, patient in the shower. It was never reported. Never investigated. The home did actually institute a policy preventing,
workers from bathing female patience, but as far as we know, that rehab worker is still working in the care homes. That's horrifying, Lillis get back to the rehab itself. How do people with addictions end up in a place like this? We actually found a lot of participants that recovery connections were court, ordered there as part of their probation. You know a judge will say: ok, I'm not gonna. Send you to prison by. I require you to get treatment or or rehab for your drug problem. There are a lot of rehab like this all over the country that advertise themselves as free and specifically cater to people don't have any money and dont have any insurance and therefore don't really have any place to turn. Also a lot of social workers at state funded, psych facilities, rehab centres, detox facilities, send people too every connections as well. We talk to one guy named Brian Bailey, who was ordered by a judge to complete treatment.
Cleveland Ohio. Here It had a charge of domestic violence. Fur pushing his step father During an argument related to his heroin addiction, he had some driving related because from his heroin addiction- and he ended up at recovery connections and realized. It was not at all the treatment that he needed to overcome that there is no real structured recovery. The only recovery that we God was. Work, your tail off wake up go to work. Do trying to they tell you to or they'll, though pajama move push on punishment. Take what privileges of freedoms, a gene from you keep you working one twenty hours a day like every day of the week, so people are working he's crazy long days. Soliciting donations, Gimme Julia, walk me through what a day is like one of these rehab centres, its incredibly struck
So I'm people have told us that they wake up at six, a m and they're going to work at the assisted living facilities. So they're working double shit, usually sixteen hours a day. Its common after that. They're back at the rehab facilities, as Ryan was describing of their put on the move. That means that they always have to be working. So that's that can be a cleaning up around the house. People told us that they had very strict rules and sort of these odd punishments where they would have to cut the fur along with a pair of scissors or scrub, the base boards of the home with a baby tooth brush- and they to do this for hours and hours on end, and this was ostensibly to help keep their mind. Of their addictions. But we talk to a lot of people. That said it was about control. It was about sort of breaking them down. It sells really caught liked me, yeah. What a lot of people have said was that the bus colt, like part of this, was actually bees therapy groups that they
had that would happen once a week and the way that it would work. Is that someone would sitting in the middle they'd be sitting in the hot seat and everyone else in the rehab programme would be around them and would scream at them about their flaws, and it would get incredibly abusive they were allowed to say anything. People said they were frequently breakdown. Crying people would tell them you know, use things from their past sale, you are a bad mother like yours, spoiled brat, there is a lot of profound It would often be incredibly traumatic, break down and then doing bother to build Europe. It's just tearing you down and turn your self esteem down. Normally what they want out of you and people had said that that was about all of the therapy they got and what the rehab said was O. This was supposed to be an exercise that would sort of bring their flaws front and centre and help them confront us and overcome it. But what
well said was it was incredibly abusive. It would break them down and again. This was all about control of bitten therapy that doesn't sound anything like therapy to me. So what happened right? Well, he ended up fleeing. The programme on he became almost for a while. He relapsed he found out that as a result of all this, he violated his probation. So he actually currently has a warrant from Cleveland for his arrest. And, as a result, he's been kind of on the run. Ever since I mean he has a hard time getting a job, he kind of has stay lay low and he can't get a driver's license. So it's really affected his life for the worse. I can't even go back to a higher or they will arrest me. I mean I wouldn't go back and do that again if I do
I would almost rather take on changes on the street It hasn't worked out for rights, but as will hear the Pope and worked out pretty well for the woman whose, behind this asking she turned. The rehab into our own personal empire, complete with a collection of exotic animal, three or four plus, Eleven long was seven dogs, plus, don T, you know sheep, Arctic thanks coming up on reveal from the centre for get reporting in p, R.
From the centre for investigative reporting and people are ex. This is reveal a mallet I'm talking with reveal. Borders. Amy Julia Harris issue, Shanna Walter about their story. Looking at recovery connections community outside of actual North Carolina. Now it feels itself as a drug. We have programme, but the fair, because this Sending clients to work sixteen our days, caregivers, had assisted living facilities and the workers never saw the money to the woman named Jennifer worn set up the programme in seeing the prophet off it. So Amy Juliet tell me more about this woman, what EL she's, really interesting character, I'm so she herself I struggled with the decks and she was getting her Phd in clinical psychology. That's when she got hooked on crack cocaine. She dropped out. She went to this our programme and North Carolina Thou had a similar model. It was a work based, rehab is free, but she turn over all of her pay. The rehab base
gee. I she was in this way. A programme met some other people and she decided to start a rehab of her own and it was called recovery ventures. So she started this we have programme, but soon it sort of began oh off the rails for her. She got into some ethical problem. She was forcing people in her programme to baby said her kids and color coordinator closet and take care of her animals and was really blurring the line between helping they were covering got eggs and helping herself, because she was in part of this nonsense. But rehab programme. She would have them solicit donations, and some of them ended up going to her rather than to program participants and then The final straw for all of this was when she started sleeping with one of her rehab participants who she was counselling and that obviously a huge ethical breach
Some of our colleagues were trying to intervene and said your jeopardizing your license. This is career suicide. What are you doing and she held firm and said I love him. What am I supposed to do she continued all of this and I was kind of the final straw. She ended up getting fired. She lost her therapy licence shot into a lot of trouble, and then she ended up just starting a new programme called recovery connections. That was basically an identical version of her previous programme. By this time she d have to answer to anyone who is in charge so sure shoulders. She starts as new place, but that she continued behavior. Yes, the same exact thing, although this time she is running an unlicensed programme, there's no one really to hold her accountable and theirs. The thing that we haven't told you about yet, which is her, call Unquote animal therapy programme. Jennifer has like a
she's gonna things, animal collecting animals, she likes exotic animals The actually has an extensive exotic. More collection, their basically like her pets and she uses program to buy the animals and make participants take care of them. So what I believe we are we talking about like how many we talk. There were hundreds. She keeps them at her house, Black Mountain North Carolina. People have told us that her entire bed. Room was full of cages of exotic bird like two cans and parakeets and other tropical birds, and Yes in this question like how many animals are, they and Carrie is going through all of them. I don't even know where to begin. I would say:
mammals, probably fifty there's, probably like love, love, fifty you know like three or plus, eleven lamas plus Seven dogs plus eight donkeys, was in our goats arctic facts. Yeah, two of them she could use some food but violent. Looking monkey I hate monkeys, no, no! No! No! No! The ok! eleven lamas. Eleven lamas, but know what we also
that was really sad as that some participants had to bury the long as some of the long as died so part of their duties after their working at the assisted living facilities, they come home and they have to bury a dead Lama whose very traumatic. So what I believe. Yeah even had a rough time. He ended up going to the rehab centre in twenty fourteen. He stayed first, sixteen months he saw you sort of things are breaking down. He questioned the way the money was being spent. He would get into arguments with Jennifer over the way he was spending programme funds on herself healed, Lee ended up leaving on not good terms and because he struggles with addiction is entire life. He ended up real app saying who is in a really dark place and, after a couple of months actually end up going back to the programme the participant no longer as an administrator, so he was to the programme working. Sixteen our days at the assisted living facilities, he did Africa.
Of months, and he finally realised nothing was going to change. This programme was not gonna work for him and I wasn't working for some other people's while so he ended up leaving so How is she able to get away with this? I. How did she just keep doing the same thing over and s amazing out? There have been at least four our state agencies that have investigated horror that have received so many like dozens upon dozens of complaints about her and she's matter. Tat basically got out of trouble each and every single time the worst of it was when she first started covering connections, and someone submitted a complaint that she was running, an unlicensed programme to the Department of Health and Human services, which regulates rehab and they sent an investigator out there. The to get our met with Jennifer Warren Jennifer sweet talk to her. She told her the programme and that she wasn't
hiding treatment and the investigator was basically like. Well, ok, here is the state code that says you are exempt from licensure ever since that point whenever anyone has complained about the programme. You know about abuse about neglected the care homes about all the misuse of donations. She just two pointed to the state code saying she's exempt, and the state agency has just turned the other cheek every single time so What is worn say about all this? We, how does she defend herself, overall, she is sort of said that she is providing a valuable service that there's not enough affordable treatment, programmes anywhere in the country that it's better for people struggling with addiction to get some sort of rehab help thing go into prison. Andrews. Have made this point to a officers and courts over the state? So is there an alternative? You know people generally feel like
doing work and doing a good job at the work gives them a sense of self esteem, but there are programmes that do that without working them excessive number of hours, depriving them of sleep and programmes that also, at the same time, provide them with actual treatment. Further addictions where they might take classes were, they might actually have therapy or counselling. So I think there's that part of it, and also you know. If a programme is licensed, then there's some oversight and there's someone who can say this is abusive, and this must stop so that this as a part of a wider train anywhere in the middle of an addiction crisis and people are struggling to pay for rehab right. So I think we have found is that programmes ignore our marketing themselves to courts all over the country. Sort of writing this wave criminal justice reform and hopping
into the bandwagon of trying to keep people with addiction out of prison, which is really laudable goal, but our sort of marketing themselves thus providing this valuable service that is attractive to courts and probation officers who want to help people, but what they dont know, is what these programmes I really like so now they marking themselves free. It comes with a big catch and a lot of people to send a being worked too ground and not getting any help at all and are often worse off than they were before. So I think it's just lesson to a lot of courts and to people who find these types of programmes that often they look very attractive, but their sort of this dark side of them that, I think not a lot of people know about. Amy Julia Harris and Walter. Thank you for coming in thanks how things are now just as we, putting the finishing touches on this part gas. We got some breaking news. Those
the latest, who done nothing for years they finally spring into action Amy. Juliet Shanna started asking questions suddenly there are numerous criminal and regulatory investigations into recovery connections, specifically interview She's we raise here. There are so many. In fact that attorney General North Carolina says he's taking it. Coordinating off and not lotta Governor Roy Cooper ordered the crack down to be called the rehab terrific scheme that praise on people at their lowest stages order the rehab to stop sending workers to the assisted little facilities that Workers a major source of its funding and people on probation No longer allowed to go to the re have either more stories on this soon, and we can email them to you. Just sign of foreign this letter by taxing the word newsletter to six three, seven, three, five, that's one word newsletter, six, three, seven, three five! You could take stop or help at any time and standard texting, ray
dynamic dual J Breezy Jim Briggs. If a man Doma Manual Aruba their help this week from Catherine, by Amy Julia Harrison show Shoshana. Walter was editing I ain't Yvonne, you are sound design team. The dynamic dual J Breezy Jim Briggs, Fernando my manual Aruba. Their help this week from Catherine Raimondo are acting CEO score, sharper. Amy, Pasok, editor. In chief executive producers, Kevin Sullivan by sea music, my comrade lightning support, reveals provided by the reason David Logan Foundation to John D in Kathmandu, Macarthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation for Foundation the hiding Simons Foundation and the ethics and excellence in journalism foundation reveals production of the centre for investigative reporting, p, r, eggs, I'm Alison and remember, there is always more story.
These are last few shows of the year and let me tell you in twenty twenty we are bringing the fire launching some of our most ambitious projects we ve ever done. I can wait for you to hear them reveal is all about going deep, pulling on threads. Telling stories that matter and this kind of investigative journalism. Well, it takes time and it costs money. These are the final weeks For end of the year membership campaign, we depend on listeners like you to help make this work possible to support us just takes. The word reveal to four seven four, seven, four, seven forty data rates apply and you can take stop or cancel at any time again. Just takes a word ravine I'll do for seven four, seven, four, seven, let's go! Do some good work together.
Transcript generated on 2019-12-20.