Some New Jersey teachers with addiction and mental health problems were sent to a rundown rehab facility in Florida with questionable treatment practices after turning to the state's largest teachers union for help, according to a report.
A joint investigation by STAT and the Boston Globe published Friday found the New Jersey Education Association, which represents the majority of the state's teachers, referred some of its members to a healthcare consultant who sent them to the Florida rehab center touted as a "spa for teachers."
The teachers and union members interviewed said the Recovery Institute of South Florida was a dirty rehab facility with inadequate care, the report said. Some of the patients said they were pressured to stay at the facility for a full two months to maximize the bills to their health insurance before they could get a letter saying they could return to work in New Jersey school districts.
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Officials of Recovery Institute of South Florida, which has facilities in Davie and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., declined to answer questions about the allegations, the report said.
Some of the patients said they were directed to the Florida rehab center after the NJEA referred them to a healthcare consultant who praised the facility, the report said. They were not told the consultant was also the owner of the Recovery Institute of South Florida.
NJEA officials told NJ Advance Media Friday that it no longer refers members to the consultant, HealthCare Assistance with Member Support, or HCAMS.
"NJEA does not have a business relationship with HCAMS and HCAMS was never an endorsed NJEA service provider," said Steven Baker, an NJEA spokesman. "In the past, HCAMS served as one of several companies that offered referral services to members in need of certain types of care."
HCAMS did not respond to a request for comment.
NJEA, which has 200,000 members across New Jersey, has switched to a new system of referring members who ask the union for help with addiction and mental help problems, Baker said.
"In an effort to ensure consistent, high-quality and local referral services for our members, and following the RFP process, NJEA entered into an agreement with Rutgers University Behavioral Healthcare, which will now be the exclusive provider of referral services for NJEA members who are referred for care by NJEA," Baker said.
"The wellbeing of our members is paramount to NJEA. We believe that having a single, accountable referral provider that offers a variety of assistance programs throughout the state will help ensure the highest quality of care," he added.
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