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Dating an addict in recovery

To be sure, many recovery house operators — as well as treatment center employees — are viewed by advocates as dedicated and caring individuals who battle heroin demons that endlessly plague their clients.Recovery houses are a necessity, advocates say, because such places help not only addicts, but people newly released from prison.

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Though some have accused her of sending residents to treatment centers for kickbacks, she denies Payton sat at her desk in the storefront office of Women Walking in Victory & Empowered Men, the North Philadelphia agency she founded.That's sick, man." Interviews with more than 140 people connected to drug addiction and treatment illustrate an enterprise that exploits the addicted as an invaluable raw material in a citywide gray market."It's really bad," said City Councilwoman Maria City Councilwoman Maria Quiñones Sánchez, one of few city officials who speaks openly about the exploitation of addicts, says “There are people who need help with addiction, but we've created a system where abuse is rampant.” Often the goal of treatment centers isn't to cure substance abusers, but to simply seat the same people in therapy week after week in a perpetual churn that generates dollars.Thereafter, treatment centers can receive $75 a person per session.Each person in an IOP is worth roughly $800 per month in reimbursements for group and individual therapies to a center, a former treatment center official said. If a treatment center pays a recovery house for clients, both the center and house are in violation of federal statutes that say it’s a crime to receive or solicit money in exchange for referring anyone for services reimbursable by Medicaid. Also, it’s a violation of Medicaid rules for recovery houses to decide which treatment centers its residents must attend without offering them a choice, said Joseph Trautwein, a former assistant U. Attorney in Philadelphia with expertise in health-care fraud who is now a whistle-blower lawyer in private practice.This predatory process is known on the street as "pimping out." "You're selling God's children for money," said Joseph Di Giovani, 36, a Kensington auto-repair worker and former drug addict.

For months, he said, the North Philadelphia recovery house where he lived – unlicensed and unregulated by the city, like 90 percent of such places — shuttled him out to a treatment center. Money comes into play, motives start to get twisted.

Many recovery-house operators, unqualified to oversee people sickened with substance-abuse disorders, preside over dangerously crowded, bedbug-infested flophouses, social workers say.

Quite a few recovery-house operators are ministers connected to the pipeline known as Air Bridge that sends heroin addicts from Puerto Rico into Philadelphia recovery houses.

But she tired of that life and got into running recovery houses because “it was a calling.” She listed her qualifications for the recovery houses this way: “I’m trained to do it from loving people." Residents at her houses overcome addictions and find jobs, Payton said.

"People's lives are being changed here." As many as 4,000 addicts, along with former inmates and other disadvantaged individuals, live in about 200 recovery houses in Kensington, Frankford, and North Philadelphia.

"This is a pay-to-play system of kickbacks," said Cecil Hankins, a former program analyst who worked 25 years in drug and mental health programs for the city.