One of our favorite reporters in this space, Behavioral Healthcare Executive’s Julie Miller, broke the news that LegitScript has released the first wave of “certified” advertisers for whom using AdWords and PPC will be accessible again.
I reported about this new structure back in April 2018 in my article “Google Reinstates Ads for Addiction Treatment Centers, With Pre-Certification by LegitScript” but since that time, there has been little to no public information released about the process or the status of applications.
According to Miller’s article, “Treatment centers secure inaugural AdWords certifications,” over 100 treatment providers have been approved so far, according to David Khalaf, communications specialist for LegitScript, Google’s independent partner overseeing the certifications. This far exceeds the 20-30 that LegitScript initially reported they believed they would be able to accommodate.
“Completing the LegitScript application was a rigorous task, according to Doug Tieman, president and CEO of Caron Treatment Centers. Caron has facilities in six states and is one of the newly certified organizations now cleared to bid on premium Google AdWords. Although earning the certification takes time and effort, Tieman says the benefit for the industry is that such vetting will help eliminate black-hat marketers from even participating in the more robust Google paid search options. Only the documented good guys will have the privilege.”
“’Unethical marketing practices in the addiction treatment industry have become common,’” Tieman says. “’Yet prohibiting all treatment facilities from advertising is not a viable option for anyone—Google, treatment centers or consumers.’”
Seabrook, with multiple centers in New Jersey, has also secured its certification.
According to Miller: “It’s important to keep in mind that the certification is still ramping up and that it only applies to AdWords advertising. Organic search engine optimization and Google Maps will remain in place. For the newly certified organizations, LegitScript will also continue to monitor their activity.”
This all comes on the heels of a 2.5 hour hearing that the House Energy & Commerce Committee hearing on Tuesday, July 24th, where House Representatives questioned entities such as Michael Cartwright, Chairman and CEO of American Addiction Centers as well as owner of Rehabs.com, on how their online platforms work.
While the hearing is not “must watch TV”, it seemed apparent to us that Congress understands there is a problem with matching patient with the marketplace, but hasn’t yet focused on the source of that problem, which is insurance companies arbitrarily (and in my opinion, illegally) refusing to pay for mental health and behavioral health care, and local zoning authorities who continue to place NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) politics with the siting of necessary facilities.
If there was a nationwide, robust mental health in-network system where providers could actually get paid and that patients could more easily access, perhaps using Google to search for help would not be as critical.
We agree with Caron’s Doug Tieman on this point. By restricting all information to prospective patients, we are effectively making it that much more difficult to access care.
NOTE: During the Congressional hearing, AAC’s Cartwright kept lauding a Tennessee law which supposedly passed this year which addresses the issue of unscrupulous advertisers. In our read of that law, it is an absolute copy of Florida’s law that the Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force drafted and the Florida legislature passed over a year ago. Florida continues to lead the nation in not only best in class health care for people with Substance Use Disorders, but also in protecting those who may fall victim to opportunists taking advantage of this disjointed health care system.