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A company reportedly outsources addiction patients as free labor

It’s not unusual for work to be part of the equation in addiction recovery — a job can provide access to health insurance, and some business owners want to help. But a company called the Cenikor Foundation is turning recovery into unpaid labor, often in unsafe conditions.

Driving the news: Reveal, a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting, pulled back the curtain on Cenikor's practices, which many experts say are likely illegal.

Details: Patients who enter Cenikor's program — sometimes via a court order — are put to work doing physical labor, often in warehouses or on oil platforms for companies like Exxon and Walmart.

  • For the first 18 months of the 2-year program, they don't get to keep any of the money they earn from that work. Cenikor keeps it, as the cost of its program.
  • The company also enrolls its participants in government assistance, including Medicaid and food stamps, rather than paying those costs itself.
  • Patients work up to 80 hours per week, and Cenikor staff routinely cancel treatment appointments to make time for more work, according to Reveal. Some patients go for long stretches with no counseling at all, and sources told Reveal that the company would falsify records to hide that fact.
  • Cenikor's workers often don't get the same safety equipment or other protections that non-Cenikor workers on the same site have.

What they're saying: "I can't fathom this being legitimate," John Meek, a former Labor Department investigator, told Reveal.

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