All that glitters is not gold: Referral agents are there to sell.

April 30, 2024

3:49 pm


When a potential client calls a rehab center they are assured, most of the time, that the phone will be answered. Indeed, most sites use live web chat while the website is being looked at! But who are you speaking to? All the well-established centers have caring, dedicated staff who work to very high ethical standards within tight clinical frameworks. They will not sacrifice safety for profit and will exclude clients who cannot be safely accommodated. However, a lot of websites may look as if they are drug and alcohol rehab centers, but they are not. Anyone can set up a referral website: It is not a regulated sector. While there may be rules around what you can put on a Google ad, it cost’s very little to set up a website. The website may well be very flashy with stock images of rehab centers, but the chances are you are speaking to someone on a laptop in their kitchen or doing the school run. Referral agencies are there for one reason, and one reason alone: To earn money. The person you speak to, while they may be in recovery themselves, is not a clinician and is unlikely to have ever visited any of the centers they will try and get you into. Being in recovery is a wonderful thing but everyone’s experience is different and just because the person you are speaking to has been in treatment for alcohol dependency doesn’t, in any way, mean they are qualified to assess someone else. Just because someone has had a heart attack does not make them a cardio thoracic surgeon! A referral agent needs two vital pieces of information: The name of the client and a contact number. An effective referral agent will also try and establish other useful information such as: * The substance which the client is dependent on * How long the client has been dependent * The amount of money a client is spending on the substance per day/week * The route of entry, i.e., is the client smoking the substance, injecting, inhaling, etc. * Which part of the country the client lives * How far they are prepared to travel * Their available budget * Have they been in treatment before For those clients who are opioid/opioid like agent dependent, whether they are on a “blue” script from their community drug and alcohol service for things such as methadone or buprenorphine. Some centers will not accommodate opioid patients: some will. The difficulty is that the average call taker, while they may have been in a rehab center themselves, is extremely unlikely to have visited the one they are recommending. As previously mentioned, they will over promise just to convert the call. In short, they raise a client’s expectations to a degree that the receiving center can never match. They will make all sorts of promises from gyms to swimming pools, simply to get a booking. While no longer operating, there have been cases of people owning referral agencies as well as rehab center’s the staff who answer the phones are set very aggressive sales targets. As mentioned above, agencies will use stock images of centers on their websites, sometimes without the owner’s permission. Sometimes it is obvious, to anyone, that the image does not correspond with the description! Recently, the advertising standards authority has acted against one company that undertakes this practice. Most of the big chains ignore the practice, but smaller ones, especially those that do not work with referral agents, will do their utmost to prevent their images being used without permission. Indeed, a recent Advertising Standards Authority ruling highlights how images can be misused. It is not unusual for some referral agencies to use one of more company names. A cursory search of the Companies House website can be very useful. Indeed, one referral agency uses live chat, and it is possible to live chat with two or three different companies simultaneously, while chatting to the same person! Some of the rehab centers use their own alternatively named websites. However, as with referral agencies who have live chat on multiple sites, so do the larger chains. There are not as many rehab centers in the UK as people might think there are. Indeed, there are some large swathes of the UK where there is no coverage at all. Referral agencies will use post box addresses and serviced office addresses to make it look as if they have offices and rehab centers across the UK: They do not. Companies will spend inordinate amounts of money to create this illusion. As William Shakespeare said, the merchant of venice: “All that glitters is not gold”

Referral agents are there to sell
All that glitters is not gold.