Since the early 2000’s, the U.S. has been dealing with an opioid addiction and overdose crisis. In 2016, opioid overdoses accounted for more than 42,000 deaths, which was more than any previous year on record. One year later, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared a public health emergency.
And perhaps more upsetting, an estimated 40% of opioid overdose deaths involved a prescription. This past March, the company that makes the narcotic painkiller OxyContin, Purdue Pharma, agreed to pay a $270 million settlement with the state of Oklahoma for playing a role in the opioid crises.
Not soon after, Teva Pharmaceuticals, the world’s largest generic drug maker, appeared alongside Johnson & Johnson in court against the state. Both ended up settling—Teva for $85 million and Johnson & Johnson for $572 million.
According to Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, opioid overdoses in Oklahoma killed more than 4,600 people in the state from 2007 to 2017, and it will take an estimated $17.5 billion over 30 years to address the crisis.
There are some signs that opioid addiction is beginning to decrease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 12,757 overdose deaths from prescription painkillers in 2018, which is down from 14,926 deaths in 2017—but is still too high.
Now an estimated 1,500 similar lawsuits are to be filed by state, local and tribal governments in order to compensate individuals for pain and suffering, ambulance runs, jail treatment costs, and childcare for children whose parents have died from overdoses.
It’s no wonder that the trust U.S. consumer’s have in brands has been steadily declining over the last few years, now holding at about 54 percent, according to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer.
But it’s not just pharmaceutical companies that are receiving blame for shady and immoral marketing tactics—it’s also addiction treatment and drug rehab centers, the very places these settlements will be invested into in order to prevent and treat opioid addictions.
False, Deceptive, and Misleading Marketing
Public nuisance laws are typically applied broadly to cases in which something is interfering with the general public’s rights—such as rights to public spaces like roads, waterways, or parks. But in the recent legal suits against pharmaceutical companies, the state of Oklahoma is arguing that false, deceptive, and misleading marketing is interfering with the public right to health.
While many treatment centers are honest, upfront, and truly do only want the best for their patients, some unfortunately resort to deceptive tactics, dishonest marketing, and even scams in order to get and keep clients.
And unfortunately, these scams have been known to target patients who have a lot of money—or good insurance. This hurts those patients as well as patients without money or good insurance coverage. For example, in 2017 some marketers were using the Google geographic targeting features to hide their ads for searches made from low income areas, such as Trenton or Camden. They would also hide their ads from searches made with the words “free” and “Medicaid”.
Some third-party businesses even sprung up in the wake of the opioid crisis that acted as referring hotlines—sometimes to their own treatment centers, and sometimes just to sell leads to centers who would pay top dollar for desperate clients who could pay handsomely—no matter whether they were reputable centers or were a good fit for the clients.
And Google unintentionally made this an easy scam by offering advertisers unique “tracking” phone numbers that would forward to a company’s phone—and they would only stay up as long as the ads did.
Sometimes even legitimate treatment centers experienced their Google ads phone numbers being hacked and remoted to other locations. According to a Google Top Contributor, since business owners aren’t notified of such changes by email, they would have to login to their “Google My Business” account page in order to verify periodically that their information was still correct.
Worst of all, some of these shady treatment centers were hardly even treatment centers at all. There were reports of human trafficking, prostitution, forced drugging, and kick-backs between labs, treatment centers, and halfway houses in order to keep profitable patients in the system, pulling profits from charges for daily stays and urine testing.
Protect Your Business, Your Reputation & Your Clients
In order to protect your business reputation as one that is secure, legitimate, and compassionate towards those that are suffering from addiction, you’ll need to in fact be secure, legitimate, and compassionate.
You can ensure that your business and your clients are protected from any possible hacking attempts by:
1.Obtaining an SSL certification for your website.
This will ensure a secure connection from a web server to a browser to protect your clients from harm when they visit you online.
2. Claiming your Google My Business Listing.
If a business hasn’t claimed its listing, anyone can “suggest an edit” and change the phone number or other contact information. Be sure to check on your Google My Business Listing regularly to make sure that it is taking your clients to you, rather than any would-be hacker.
3. Giving advise to your clients about what they can expect from contact with you.
Who will be taking their calls, how they can know they’re really speaking with you, and what are the locations that you work with? The more information you give your clients, the more secure they’ll feel that they’re really in the right place.
Once you’re sure that you and your clients are safe from harm, you’ll need to ensure that you’re worthy of your clients by maintaining ethical marketing practices that put their recovery first.
Remember Your Mission
Never forget that you should be in the treatment center business out of a desire to help people and their families, not to use them for your own financial gains. The opioid epidemic can only be taken on by true compassion for and devotion to our communities.
If you do choose to ask your clients questions about their insurance, do so out of a desire to get them the best treatment they can afford, not to know how much they’re worth. Consider that just because you or an associate accepts a client’s insurance, does not mean that it’s a good fit. First and foremost, pay attention to your client’s needs.
Be sure to also pay attention to what your treatment center has to offer that could set it apart from others. Do you have a low client to counselor ratio? Do your counselor’s have personal experience in dealing with addiction themselves? Do you have a lot of experience working with a particular addiction or demographic? Your goal shouldn’t be to help everyone—you should realistically aim to help a certain group of people more efficiently rather than all of them no matter what their unique situation is.
Don’t shy away from building a network with other treatment centers that are different from your own and referring patients to where you think they will do best. Whether the client has success with you or a another center in your network—a positive review will reflect well on everyone involved.
Tread Carefully on Social Media
Social media can be an amazing tool to reach out to people who are in need and may be disconnected from family, friends, and their community, However, be careful not to use it as just a lead source or simply a platform to push your services.
Social media is best used to educate, inform, and connect people in need with services that you may or may not be the best center to provide them with. Your best bet is to publish a blog with regular updates that will give valuable information to people who may be thinking of trying rehabilitation services but are wary of the process or recovering addicts who may need some extra reassurance that their struggle is real and they are not alone.
SEO is one of the best methods for treatment centers to flourish online—but it will do its best if you have real, authentic content that can be key-word optimized.
If You’re Good at What You Do, It Will Show
Your client testimonials and reviews are your best marketing materials. Encourage your previous clients to give you feedback, positive and negative, and grow authentically with any criticism you receive. Ensure that your reviews are front-and-center on your website and even consider incorporating them into your blogs every once in a while.
Be sure to also check up on your web presence on third-party sites and apps. You can set up a Google alert for the name of your drug rehab or treatment center so that you’ll receive an email notification when you’re mentioned online.
Finally, if you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional. An SEO or digital marketing company like SeoTuners can help you get your treatment center’s name out there while using ethical practices such as white-hat link building, organic and local SEO, and review monitoring. Contact us today to find out more about how we can help you accomplish an effective addiction treatment marketing plan.