Recovery Centers of America, a luxury treatment center provider with facilities across the Northeastern US, has come under fire for promising their residents a journey filled with upscale trimmings. Promising a lifestyle similar to an inpatient spa, RCA seems to be the ideal place to meet the everyday needs of people recovering from addiction, if their family can afford it. A new expose by STAT and The Boston Globe, however, finds that even basic addiction and recovery care is sorely lacking at RCA facilities, and even hints that at least one center may be the cause of a patient’s overdose.

RCA is a well-known destination for people with substance abuse disorders who can cough up the cash. The average monthly price tag is close to $25,000, and many insurance companies won’t cover it. However, the treatment center is one of the most well known in the areas in which it operates. Commercials, bus ads, and subway ads tell the same story: RCA is here to help you get clean. The commercials are hard to miss; moms and recovery addicts telling their stories about their journeys, saying that Recovery Centers of America was their saving grace. The commercials feature opulent overhead shots of their isolated facility grounds, and the treatment facilities seem to boast a promise of health and healing, with stock clips of people working out, doing yoga, and eating fresh fruit.

The expose on the luxury treatment center provider was compiled from both patients and frustrated staff, citing worries about security, inadequate counseling and recovery therapy, and many hours that instead of a structured treatment environment, patients were left to bide their time alone. Patients have complained that there is no yoga, no organic food, and no direction for their clean time to focus on. Nurses have complained that many patients have, in desperation, drank hand sanitizer and no medical facilities were called.

One medical director, John Halpern, has what could be considered a “sterling resume” but a past that’s enough to raise hairs for any relative of a person struggling with addiction, including a role in “allegedly helping to launder money for a massive LSD-trafficking operation.” (Although he was never charged, he did testify to it.)

Patients– in many other treatment centers, separated by gender to help residents explore sensitive issues in therapy– have instead been left so unsupervised that they have been caught having sex, multiple times, with no consequences. For these reasons, as well as others, staff members have said they haven’t been provided with the measures to keep residents safe. More than one staff member (in more than one facility) have written to regulators to express these concerns.

RCA disputes the findings in the reports and has conducted its own independent review of facilities, stating that nothing is amiss. The Boston Globe article, however, is enough to give anyone pause before considering ANY treatment center with such lofty promises and a hefty price tag. A luxury treatment center can still lose track of its ultimate goals. The Globe’s report explains:

“This report is based on interviews with more than a dozen former and current employees, internal RCA documents, and state investigative reports — depicting a company that spends lavishly on facilities and marketing while skimping on giving patients basic care.” It’s worth a read, if nothing else, as a cautionary tale.

You can do homework on any treatment center — including luxury treatment center providers — by asking to speak to people on the phone whose loved ones attended, checking with the Better Business Bureau, and even speaking to other recovering addicts (or their families) at a 12 step meeting or Al-Anon. Tour the facilities, and if a tour is refused, then you may want to move on from that treatment choice. If they participate in any public forum online, read the comments. RCA alone has many Youtube videos, and several of those videos have comments from disgruntled people who claim the centers are a scam. There are also several review websites that give a peek into the problems many have experienced there. Please do your homework before you commit!