When we think of human trafficking, we often think only of the type people are dramatically kidnapped for the purposes of forcing into sex work. If we’re honest. Our unwillingness to see or call out ALL types of trafficking as simply such is why it continues.

Trafficking and body/benefits/patient brokering is incredibly rampant in the substance use and mental health treatment industry. If you’re not familiar with these incredibly unethical practices, NPR did an excellent piece on it, as did Mother Jones. Author and journalist, Amy Dresner wrote about it in an article called “Relapse for Cash” for The Fix.

Some ways that Phoenix House has been involved with this type of benefits/patient trafficking and brokering:

  • Recruiting clients from out of state and establishing residency so they qualify for any/all welfare and food stamps…which go to the facility.
  • In the case of adolescents, they had our parents sign over their parental rights to them, only to threaten to encourage you to terminate their parental rights should they attempt to regain guardianship and remove you from the program. This happened. It happened to me when my mother tried to remove me from Phoenix House. She had no idea what she had signed.
  • Establishing and requiring the 12-month “live-out” period after you spend 18 months IN the facility in order to “graduate” the program. During this time, they require you to continue to attend groups at the facility, but part of the reason FOR this arrangement AND the continued coercive control even during this phase of you being “on your own” is so that they can keep billing for your treatment.

You can see the very clear pattern of this for Phoenix House going back to 1973, at the very least. This New York Times piece from 1973 outlines what they didn’t have a term for back then, but that we know today as body, patient or benefits brokering. Trafficking.

The article begins
“Sanford D. Garelik, president of the City Council, charged yesterday that Phoenix House, a program to fight drug addiction, had been recruiting addicts from outside the state for treatment here and had been getting them on welfare.

Phoenix House runs a drugfree program, unlike some others that provide methadone. It receives city and state as well as private funds. According to one of Mr. Garelik’s investigators, the recruiters of the addicts are also paid by the city.”


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