Unpaid Labor in The Drug Treatment Industry

Unpaid Labor in The Drug Treatment Industry

Earlier today D. Michael Hancock, a former administrator at the Department of Labor, released a scathing editorial about the widening practice of substance abuse treatment facilities engaging their own patients in unpaid and low-paid work. I, for one, welcome more eyes on the industry in general, and more eyes on unfair labor policies within the industry. He did not name any of the facilities that pay no wages, but the Salvation Army was named as an organization that uses drastically underpaid workers from their own treatment facilities. I have been skeptical of these practices for years, and I think it is well past time to be asking if some of these practices may break the law. Each week I write about many topics of interest to people in the field of substance abuse treatment, and the organization that I write for, Florida Springs Wellness and Recovery, believes in using all of the medical research that is available to make people more successful in treatment. So, what is the problem with unpaid labor? Not only is it illegal, like Hancock states in the article, but there is no evidence that it helps anyone, except, of course, the people profiting from “slave labor”, as he calls it. 

Florida Springs is the best drug rehab in the state of Florida, and it is among the best drug rehabs anywhere, period. We have found success by offering people a comfortable environment with medical personnel and counselors always involved in the treatment process. The groups that engage their own patients in unpaid or low-paid labor claim that their actions help the patients stay sober. Unfortunately, there is no actual research to back that claim up. For every program that we offer at Florida Springs, one of the best drug rehabilitation programs in Florida or anywhere, we can point to years of research showing positive results for patients from that program. Let us take a closer look at some of the claims made in the article, and once again, any claim of patient benefit made by organizations engaged in these actions are baseless and unproven, as the benefit derived from work is partially the result of getting paid a decent wage for that work.

Hancock was reporting on work done by Shoshana Walter, an investigative journalist. I will include a citation for the original work at the end of this article. She found “at least 300 work rehab programs in 44 states are attended by over 60,000 recovering substance abusers every year.” Another issue that arises when patients are made to work is that the jobs are not chosen by the patient. The organizations have lucrative deals with commercial clients, and patients would be expected to work whatever job was available. If you are a writer, how much benefit and satisfaction would you get from changing tires on cars all day and not getting paid? Therein lies one of the major issues. However, the biggest issue will always be the illegality, and many of these groups should be very worried about the focus that Shoshanna Walter’s work will put on them in the future. There are other groups that depend on incredibly low paid labor. The biggest brand brought up in the article was The Salvation Army, and they are a group that insists that low-paid work is a benefit to their patients. Hancock said this about the model used by the Salvation Army, “if they did not have this captive workforce, they would have to seek labor from the open market.” With this type of bad press happening just before the biggest holiday of the year, it will be interesting to see what the next step is for The Salvation Army and any other groups that use labor from their own pools of patients. If you or a loved one needs to speak to a counselor at one of the best drug rehabs in Florida, please call us today using the phone number on this website.

By T.A. Cannon (Contact me at TACannonWriting@gmail.com)



“Review finds many who work during rehab aren’t being paid”, By Shoshana Walter. Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. July 7, 2020