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Educational event or swag-fest? Addiction treatment companies chase business with flashy giveaways

Addiction treatment professionals attending a major national conference last weekend said they welcomed a crackdown on shady operators in their industry.

HYANNIS, Mass. — The more than 1,000 people attending a national conference for the addiction treatment industry last weekend wore bright blue lanyards around their necks promoting Sovereign Health, a chain of treatment centers that was one of the event’s financial supporters — and was recently raided by federal agents.

Sovereign’s prominent and untimely sponsorship of the Cape Cod Symposium on Addictive Disorders, one of the largest and most influential addiction treatment events of the year, created an awkward juxtaposition for an industry eager to improve its reputation.

Many in the sprawling, $35 billion addiction treatment business are dismayed by revelations, and — all coming as the demand for quality treatment has never been higher amid a national opioid epidemic. Providers say they welcome a crackdown on shady operators, but fear people in need will think they’ll be preyed on wherever they go.

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