Do’s and Dont’s When Opening A Treatment Center

Dani La Barrie,LCSW,QS,CAP

SFYB Senior Author Dani LaBarrie 

Though I am eager to help those interested in opening a treatment center/facility, there are some important things I tell my investors and CEOs to consider before leaping into a venture that they haven’t quite thought all the way through. I’ve compiled a short list of some do’s and don’ts for those of you who are interested in taking this leap as well 🙂


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  1. DO plan and budget on no cash flow through your treatment center for at least six months, nine months to be safe. Most insurance companies take from thirty to ninety days to process insurance authorizations. In other words, it can be a very long time before you receive payments for the services you are providing leaving you to carry the overhead. Lately, with industry politics and the prevalence of insurance fraud, it’s taking even longer for those authorizations to process. To err on the side of caution, it’s best to prepare (mentally and financially) to operate your company with no money coming in for at least six months.licensedvsunlicensed
  2. DON’T hire an unlicensed clinician as your clinical director. Keep in mind that the Department of Children and Families, Insurance companies, and Joint Commission have varying needs/criteria that must be met (Joint Commission isn’t currently required but may likely be required soon, I’ll get to that later). Just because one requirement is met for one entity, doesn’t necessarily mean it will meet the requirements of the next. A clinician with a certification in addiction is great for DCF, however, insurance companies are requiring documentation to be signed off by a Licensed clinician (LCSW, LMHC, or LMFT) otherwise they will not authorize payment. So make sure you’re “good for all,” and not just one.teaserbox_11813837
  3. DO have competent staff and employees hired prior to opening day. You’ll want to have structure already in place; having employees and a program schedule already developed will help to reduce chaos. Your team members should be strong and capable of wearing many hats. Hiring the bare minimum may keep costs down but can compromise care and morale/confidence of new clients.a14ec1b439613a1122fd01ce598aab93
  4. DON’T hire family members and/or close friends unless maybe, and this is a BIG MAYBE, they have exceptional boundaries. I am aware of and have worked with some treatment centers who have hired family members and/or very close friends anyway and have witnessed what happens in the unfortunate circumstance of that family member or close friend “slacking off,” or “not meeting job description requirements.” Not to mention, since they’re your family member or close friend they may feel a sense of entitlement — ‘I don’t really have to do this because I’m so and so.’ The difference between this and a disgruntled employee is losing your friend or damaging your familial relationship too. Also, it can be extremely uncomfortable when meeting with them and discussing their job performance; it muddles business and pleasure.hero_accreditation
  5. DO prepare yourself for audits and accreditation processes. As I mentioned earlier about meeting different needs/criteria: DCF will audit your clinical charts and Human Resources files after 90 days of your opening date and once yearly from that point forward. Meaning, your ‘i’s need to be dotted and t’s crossed’…consistently. There was a time when Joint Commission accreditation was a “preferred thing.” Because of the prevalence of fraudulent treatment centers, insurance companies are pulling back more and more, and many insurance agencies REQUIRE a treatment center to have Joint Commission Accreditation in order to pay for a client. I have sincere respect for Joint Commission (once referred to as “JACHO”); not only do they audit charts, they also interview staff, interview clients, and do random site visits AFTER you’ve acquired your certification from them.mislead-1764x700
  6. DON’T get misled! There are many people who call themselves ‘professionals,’ ‘therapists,’ ‘counselors,’ etc. Know your facts, laws, and Florida Statutes! Whether hiring a consultant (such as myself) or an attorney who specializes in substance abuse treatment, make sure you are following the correct information. Operating an ethical treatment center can be a stressful juggling act, the last thing you need is the FBI and/or IRS knocking on your door. And let’s just say, if it ever got to that point, they wouldn’t be knocking…ScholarshipsSearch
  7. DO accept scholarships. (Scholarship means a client who is admitted to your program at no cost.) When developing your business plan and creating your budget, keep in mind at some point you will need to scholarship a client (or a few). Not every client is going to have health insurance, despite federal requirements to. You may come across a client ready for treatment who has hit “rock bottom” and has no health insurance or any means to pay for your treatment.AAEAAQAAAAAAAAUAAAAAJDc4OTQ1OTc1LTJlM2ItNGViYS04MDYzLWZmMGJjOGZiZGMwNg
  8. And last, but most definitely not least, DON’T open a treatment center just for the money. I will acknowledge it is a lucrative business, but these are people’s lives. Addiction and substance abuse is an epidemic in our country. Kids are using drugs younger and younger, families are broken, and people are dying every single day.   


So, if your business plan is developed and you’re seeking an investor, or if you already have the capital and looking to open a treatment center, before contacting me or any other consultant, make sure you sit for a minute and really ask yourself a few questions: What are my intentions? What’s going to make me different from all of the treatment centers who already exist? And why do I really want to open a treatment facility?

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Dani La Barrie,LCSW,QS,CAP
Chief Executive Officer at Affinity Treatment Solutions, Inc.
Danielle “Dani” La Barrie has a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Florida International University. Ms. La Barrie is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker as well as a Certified Addictions Professional in the state of Florida.

She has worked as a mental health therapist in the Department of Juvenile Justice System in Broward County, as a school-based therapist in the Florida Keys, as an in-home family therapist providing intensive therapy to at-risk youths, and as a clinical director of substance abuse treatment centers.

Danielle has fulfilled the role of clinical director at multiple substance abuse treatment centers that provide partial hospitalization programming with community housing, intensive outpatient, outpatient, and aftercare services. She has significant experience with clients who suffer from substance abuse disorders, mental health disorders, dual diagnoses, personality disorders, addictive behaviors, and codependency.

Assisting in other start-up treatment centers, helping to build programs from the ground up, as well as being hired to improve programs that were running inefficiently has provided Danielle the knowledge and skill set to open a treatment center. Allowing her to branch out and utilize what she has learned to do (and not do) in order to have a successful center that also assists clients in being the best they can be. Let me help you today!

Many thanks to Robert Henslee and Stop Frying Your brain you guys totally rock !!
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