How-To Resolve a Clinic Complaint

Clinic Complaints-A Guide

We now have a lot of experience with helping you with your complaints. The odds are against us in something like this but we have to try; fighting the abuses makes it less likely that bad providers will do it again. Watchdog does not currently have the funding to handle your complaint from start to finish. It takes time, postage, long-distance phone calls, etc.. You also know your situation much better than we do.

We’ve tried to give you as many of the resources you’ll need to resolve your clinic complaint. You can decide for yourself how far you want to take it. First, fill out the Clinic Report Form and send it to us for inclusion on the Clinic Report pages. The ratings list is very important because it begins to put pressure on the bad clinics and exposes their unprofessional attitude to prospective patients, government officials, the new accreditation survey teams, and their professional peers. If you do nothing else, filing the Report will be a contribution towards turning this system around and making yourself heard.

The reports are entered into A.T. Watchdog’s database of clinic reports. This information is sent to state and federal officials, providers and accreditors. The more patients from a clinic that submit a report (hard copy report forms are available for patients without computer access) about their clinics, the easier it is to see patterns of abuse at a particular clinic. The reports also help officials and patient advocates see which OTP’s are providing quality treatment. We hope to hold these programs up as an example for other Opiate Treatment Programs.

We recommend that patients keep a written record of everything regarding the problem they are experiencing at their clinic. Write down dates, times, who said what and when. The more detailed the written account, the better.

If a patient has a problem with their treatment, they should first discuss the situation with their program counselor. Because so many clinics have a high turnover of counselors, many of them are not familiar with state and federal regulations and may ‘guess’ at a regulation or policy. It’s in the patient’s best interests to be familiar with State and Federal Regulations. A link to the Federal Regulations is at the bottom of this page. Contact your State Methadone Authority for a copy of your state’s regulations.

If speaking with the program counselor doesn’t produce results, the patient should speak with the Program Director and/or Medical Director. If the owner of the clinic is the Program Director, reporting the problem to state officials is next on the list if the patient still doesn’t resolve the problem after involving the Program and/or Director. In most situtations, complaints are involved at the clinic level.

Depending on the problem, the patient can also contact the program’s accreditor. The approved accrediting agencies are CARF , JCAHO or COA. Washington and Missouri clinics are accredited by an accreditor operated by the States.

Patients should also contact one of the patient advocacy organizations such as Addiction Treatment Watchdog, ARM or NAMA to report the problem or ask for help depending on the severity of the complaint. MMT advocacy resources are spread very thin so they should make sure they let advocates know if another organization is already working to resolve the problem on their behalf. It does no good to duplicate efforts and usually causes confusion, making resolution of a problem more difficult.

We advise you to send a copy of the A.T. Watchdog Clinic report to the State Methadone Authority for your state. This is the person at the state level responsible for overseeing the clinics in your state. This begins the process of letting the government know that we intend to function as consumers of medication-assisted-treatment.

If patients don’t resolve their problem after contacting the State Methadone Authority and the appropriate accreditation agency, they have the option of contacting CSAT – Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, the federal agency that has oversight of Opiate Treatment Programs. CSAT can be contacted at CSAT or by calling (866) INFO-OTP or (866) 463-6687.

It’s sad to say that under our current system, medication-assisted-treatment patient’s rights are violated every single day in this country. We frequently receive reports from patients telling us that clinic staff members retaliated against them because they reported abuse at their clinics. Please keep this in mind before actively pursuing a clinic complaint. If this has happened to you, contact us and we will contact federal officials on your behalf.

Consider discussing your experiences on the A.T.Watchdog Message Board. This will allow you to network and interact with other patients who may be having the same problem or who may have gone through a complaint experience and have good advice which can save you time or make your efforts more effective. We try to answer all questions posted to the Message Board, but because of time constraints, we are not always able to answer individual requests for information sent to A.T. Watchdog email in a timely manner. The message board is also a good place to learn about state and federal regulations.

Useful Links

A.T. Watchdog Clinic Report Form
CSAT Accreditation Guidelines
Federal Regulations for Opiate Treatment Programs
State Methadone Authority Directory
CARF
JCAHO
COA
CSAT
SAMHSA
CSAT-sponsored Methadone Patient Support and Community Methadone Education Project
FAQs about Federal Regulations
A.T. Watchdog Message Board
NAMA
ARM
Drug Testing Clearinghouse
UA Chart