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Google Resumes Accepting Ads from Addiction Treatment Centers

A year after it temporarily suspending advertisements from addiction treatment centers on its premium AdWords platform, Google is once again allowing facilities to promote themselves through its search engine.

King of Prussia-based Recovery Centers of America (RCA) was among the first group of about 40 addiction treatment center operators in the country approved to resume advertising on Google’s AdWords platform. The Business Journal requested a complete list of providers who passed the certification process; Google said it is not disclosing their names.

“We strongly support Google’s efforts to weed out some of the unethical players in the field,” said Bill Koroncai, RCA’s director of communications.

Koroncai said the temporary ban was put in place last August after Google discovered — amid the ongoing opioid addiction crisis — certain treatment providers were providing false advertising. In some instances, he said, outfits known as “call aggregators” stated they operated a facility near a search engine user’s location. In reality, Koroncai said the aggregators were collecting leads they would sell to treatment center operators from around the country or rerouting the call to treatments centers with whom they had partnerships.

“That’s the type of behavior Google was trying to weed out,” Koroncai said. “Selling leads is a big no-no in our industry.”

Under a new certification program, led by LegitScript, applicants were required to undergo a comprehensive, 15-point evaluation of clinical competency and commitment to addiction care best-practices. Applicants were required to submit evidence supporting evaluation criteria that include business practices, compliance with FDA-approved medication assisted treatment protocols and qualifications of all a facility’s clinicians. To resume the online adverting, centers were required to be certified by both LegitScript and Google.

“It was a relatively straightforward process,” said Grant McClernon, director of marketing strategy and operations at RCA. “A lot of what they were looking for in the basic stuff facilities should and do have on hand at all times. They didn’t want to make it an onerous process.”

McClernon said it was his understanding that more than 250 applications were submitted. Operators of sober homes, which are residential facilities for addicts after the complete treatment programs, and referral agencies were barred from the process. The certification application fee per facility ranged from $795 to $995. In addition, center operators are required to supply an annual fee per facility of $1,495 to $1,995.

“By and large everybody who fit the bill was applying,” McClernon said. “We think this was much-needed regulation and oversight in a field with the potential for risks, absence regulation. The name of the game here is patient safety and we are very happy with what they have done, and we are very happy to be in the first wave of providers to be approved.”

Other addiction treatment center operators that have announced they received certification include Balboa Horizons of Costa Mesa, Calif., and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation of Center City, Minn.

A LegitScript spokesman said the first 40 certified addiction treatment providers operate more than 300 U.S. facilities.

RCA operates six inpatient centers including Recovery Center of America at Devon in Pennsylvania and Recovery Centers Of America at Lighthouse in Mays landing, N.J.

Last week, Facebook announced, effective immediately, it will require addiction treatment centers to obtain certification from monitoring firm LegitScript before being approved to advertise in-person addiction treatment services in the United States through its site.



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