Ontario must regulate rehab centres to protect the public

Posted on May 25, 2016 in Health Delivery System

TheStar.com – Opinion/Editorials – Private drug and alcohol rehab centres operate in Ontario without standards or licencing requirements. Regulation is needed to protect the public.
May 24, 2016.   Editorial

Just about anyone can declare themselves an addiction treatment expert in Ontario today and provide therapy to vulnerable people battling substance abuse. It’s a wide open system that leaves the public in danger of being exploited.

There’s no government regulation of private rehab centres; no standards to follow; no licencing requirement to be a drug or alcohol counselor; and no guarantee that desperate people — who often pay thousands of dollars for treatment — are getting their money’s worth.

Families already struggling to cope with the nightmare of addiction face a buyer-beware situation, but in the absence of a clear and mandatory accreditation system it’s difficult to identify and avoid rogue operators.

Rather than taking firm action against this obvious health threat, Queen’s Park seems willing to leave the public unprotected. As reported by the Star’s Sarah-Joyce Battersby, Ontario’s health ministry insists there is currently no regulation under consideration for private rehab centres or addiction counsellors.

The issue of whether the province is doing enough came into sharp focus this month when the Ontario Provincial Police charged the owner of a prominent chain of addiction treatment centres with defrauding patients of up to $6.1 million.

John Haines, CEO and owner of Addiction Canada, faces five charges including money laundering, benefitting from the proceeds of crime, trafficking in controlled substances, and two counts of fraud. Two employees were charged last year with practising medicine without a licence.

Lack of government oversight in the addiction treatment sector is especially troubling given society’s pressing need for rehab services. Overdose deaths involving narcotic pain relievers such as morphine, oxycodone and fentanyl are near disastrous levels. In Toronto alone, the overdose toll has hit a record high more than 200 lives lost in a single year. And that’s just part of the substance abuse problem. It doesn’t include the long-stranding and massive harm wrought by excess alcohol consumption.

There is publicly funded treatment available in Ontario but it typically requires an assessment and a referral, as well as considerable time spent on a waiting list. Some people, including families worried about the imminent loss of a loved one in the grip of an addiction, feel a pressing need for more immediate care. To get it, they’re willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars a month to a private rehab clinic.

Lack of government oversight means they may be wasting their money and, even worse, subjecting those they are trying to help to inferior treatment.

Independent accreditation organizations can provide some guidance as to which operators follow evidence-based standards and deliver appropriate care. But taking part in an accreditation process remains voluntary. And shady rehab operators can obtain dubious endorsements from a variety of online accreditation providers willing to issue a seal of approval for a small fee and few questions asked.

It’s no surprise that people suffering with addictions, and their supporters, don’t know where to turn in their time of crisis.

The Ministry of Health should end its lamentable hands-off policy on private rehab clinics. Clear rules and standards are necessary to keep rogue operators out of the marketplace.

People struggling to overcome debilitating — and even life-threatening — addictions have challenges enough without the added burden of government neglect.

< https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2016/05/24/ontario-must-regulate-rehab-centres-to-protect-the-public-editorial.html >

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