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The City Journals

Star of A&E’s ‘Intervention’ Heather Hayes visits Murray to talk opioid abuse

Apr 09, 2018 04:11PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Heather Hayes, star of A&E’s “Intervention,” warns of opioid patient brokering. (Photo/Heather Hayes)

Heather Hayes, a therapist featured on A&E Network’s Emmy award-winning reality show “Intervention,” visited Murray on Feb. 28 to raise awareness about treatment industry ethics and the opioid epidemic in Utah.

She recently visited the Recovery Ways treatment center in Murray to commend their staff and provide them with further ethics training. She also encouraged Utah lawmakers to pass laws regulating patient brokering. She sat down with City Journals to discuss current issues regarding issues facing those with opioid addiction.

You said we should have addiction drills. What does that mean?

It is more of a metaphor. We have fire drills, we have tornado drills, we have terror drills in our schools, but we need to have addiction drills in our schools because addiction is far more likely to kill our children these days.

 We know enough about the signs and symptoms of addiction to know how to work with our children, helping our families and communities to have discussions, starting at home, at the dinner table, to know what to look for. We need to know how to help when our kids get in trouble so that they don’t feel like it’s a disgrace to have an addiction issue but to really be able to step forward and ask for help and not have it stigmatized.

Your visit to Utah is to discuss ethics and the challenge that addicts face with getting treatment called “patient brokering.” What is that?

There are several ways patient-brokering happens. One, patients are brokered by someone who says, “I am going to refer you a client and I want you to give me money back.” The problem with that is, if they are patient brokering, and there is a Treatment Center A and Treatment Center B; Center B may be the better fit but Center A is going to give them $8,000 for a client. How can they truly make the right decision about that?

There are also call centers that are literally auctioning off clients. For example, someone calls the call center that they found on the Internet. The call center will say to the caller, “Part of what we do is that we recommend what is the best fit for your child and we’re going to refer you to this place,” and they get a kickback from that treatment center.

Is this what you mean when you said there is a more insidious problem with our treatment industry’s ethics?

The other thing happening is that the call center people will prey on advocacy groups. Such as advocacy groups on Facebook that are for parents of addicted children. They will contact the parent and say, “I see your son’s story and it has touched my heart so much that we will offer a free scholarship and airline ticket for your son to be sent to our facility in Southern California.” 

When they check in, they take their Social Security number and go and buy insurance for them and use the client’s insurance to get reimbursements. They get maybe 17–20 days out of the policy and as soon as the policy runs out, the client is put in a position where they have to make a risky transfer and relapse again.

You are planning to meet with the legislature, what is the legislation you are hoping they will pass?

There’s legislation here in Utah (HB 14 and SB 222 that were sponsored by Representative Eric Hutchings and Senator Gene Davis) which makes Utah one of the states that are leading the nation and helping to regulate some of these unethical practices. Right now, there are no teeth in a lot of places to make it illegal to patient broker.

Florida passed House Bill 807 and is the only state in the nation right now where patient brokering marketing practices are all illegal. Georgia right now has Senate Bill 352 that was just passed.