Finding the right rehab for ready-to-recover addicts has been too complicated for too long. A SoCal startup wants to fix that.
Amee Gray found herself in a situation foreign to her but intimately familiar to so many. A family member had survived a drug overdose, and she was trying to find a suitable rehab facility for him.
This is, sadly, a profound problem playing out in an ever-widening swath of living rooms, hospital rooms and courtrooms across the country. And as she went about finding an appropriate treatment option for her loved one, Amee realized the solution was as confounding as addiction itself.
“Selecting the right rehab,” she recalled, “was like throwing spaghetti at a wall.” She was hoping something would stick – and hope isn’t a strategy.
Amee’s frustrating experience mirrors that of countless others. In an emergency situation that calls for just the right treatment option – one that considers a variety of factors, from insurance to concurrent health issues to other potential pitfalls – rehab research is ridiculously random.
“Until you’re right in that moment – until you’re actively seeking care for yourself or a loved one – you don’t realize how complex the process is,” she explains. “You don’t come to the table with everything organized and ready to go. It’s a life-or-death level crisis where nerves are frayed and people are often novices.”
High stakes, low resources, little to no experience. People searching for addiction treatment are at their wit’s end and don’t know where to begin. That’s a dangerous mix.
Fortunately, Amee did have experience – not in finding the right rehabs, but in building online healthcare “matchmaking” networks. Most recently, she’d helped design a site that pairs catastrophic injury victims with appropriate care services and medical products.
“It’s about making a complicated process far simpler through technology,” she explains. Such facilitation websites can consider personal medical, financial and lifestyle criteria and, from there, provide tailored, criteria-specific options.
What worked for physical injuries, Amee realized, could work for addiction recovery. In September 2021, she launched RecoverWell, an online directory that matches patients with suitable addiction treatment options based on their specific needs and circumstances.
Dazed and Confused
RecoverWell is attempting to address a longstanding problem that has been painfully – and lethally – felt throughout the addiction and recovery community: extended suffering and death due to innocent ignorance. Too often, the agonizing choice to get treatment is easier than actually finding treatment that works for the addict.
“People are suffering and even dying for an incredibly avoidable reason: lack of institutional organization,” Amee says. With a system only as strong as its weakest link, she explains, the dearth of established protocols and procedures for getting ready-to-recover addicts into treatment is glaring and costly. “It’s a gaping disconnect, with the public, hospital services and social workers on one side of the chasm, and the higher levels of care for mental health and addiction on the other.”
That gap urgently needs to be bridged. At a mission-critical moment – the window before opioid or alcohol withdrawal sets in, or before an addict simply changes his mind about getting help – addicts and their loved ones are faced with a convoluted task with no set structure. Online searches with advertisement-driven results. Call centers with ulterior monetary motives. Rehab reps who, merely by doing their jobs, are trying to close a sale and fill a bed even when their facility isn’t the best fit for a particular patient.
And uncovering a few treatment options is just the beginning. A shortlist based on hours of research leads to another multi-layered labyrinth. First and foremost is the matter of insurance.
“Everyone knows insurance is intimidating to understand,” Amee exclaims, “and the rehab system can be exponentially more difficult.” Among other insurance factors that lead to frequent “false starts,” she explains, are a severe shortage of facilities that take Medicaid (Amee estimates that only 1,000 of approximately 16,000 US facilities accept it), and instances of rehabs taking one form of insurance but not others, making out-of-pocket expenditures vary drastically.
There are also many non-addiction or mental health-related reasons why patients might ultimately get rejected by a rehab facility, including common medical issues like diabetes, ambulatory limitations such as wheelchair accessibility, and criminal records. Family circumstances – a single mother in need of treatment, for instance – are also frequent impediments.
As Amee knows from experience, neither frazzled addicts nor inundated nurses, social workers and legal personnel have any time for these runarounds. This needed to be smoother, more intuitive, easier.
“My mother always said there are two things you can do for someone in crisis: offer them hope, and offer them options.”
RecoverWell, she believes, has the game-changing potential to do both.
From Hospitals to Help
The US Surgeon General’s Report states each year 22 million individuals visit emergency rooms for a substance abuse-related injury or illness. However, less than two million end up getting any care.
“That’s between 10-13% getting help” Amee said, “and that’s the ongoing tragic failure of our current health care system.”
Hospital nurses and other crisis-situation personnel: social workers, case managers, shelter staff, and court officers . When it comes to facilitating tailored addiction treatment, they’re as stumped as the patients – and their inundated workloads leave them little time for any exacting research.
Against this time impoverishment and bewilderment, RecoverWell provides streamlined access, quickly. Addicts and/or their advocates respond to a series of simple questions regarding the patient’sunique clinical criteria, budget concerns, and overlapping health concerns. In a matter of moments, they are presented with quality, vetted treatment options.
“No more flying blind,” said Amee. “We want to work with hospitals and crisis workers, making it easier for them to do their jobs, provide better patient services, disrupt the cycle of addiction and diminish recidivism.
Notably, RecoverWell backs up its claims of “vetted” facilities – personally. In an era where patient brokering and lazy, cash-grab rehabs with inadequate treatment programs have only fueled the modern drug crisis, RecoverWell sends staff to personally inspect each treatment facility applying to be listed on the site.
Currently, RecoverWell’s market includes Southern California. The goal is to operate the most popular national data-base of vetted treatment providers.
RecoverWell is already having an impact. Over 200 health-care professionals are providing swift access to high quality care. They can even apply for admission at several treatment centers simultaneously, moving the qualification and pre-admission process along far more efficiently than ever before.
“We’re here to help keep SUD sufferers alive,” she continues.
Recovery is complicated enough. Anything that can make it simpler – especially at its inception – is of untold value. Hopefully, facilitation tools like RecoverWell are coming to a hospital near you, and soon.