So you want to start a rehab center? (Also known as treatment center). First and foremost, congratulations on taking the brave first step. There are a number of crucial things that you must put into place and understand before moving forward with this tedious process.

This is a delicate business you are about to venture into – though often can be very rewarding. One mistake could potentially have dire consequences for your clients and their families. Now, mistakes are okay and it is only natural that you will stumble a bit on your journey of opening a drug rehab, but there is too much on the line so think long and hard before you decide to commit and make an investment on opening your own facility.

The number one issue that we see when people start a rehab center without a drug rehab advisor is that they don’t have a solid marketing plan in place. Licensure and regulation are equally as important. You must take the necessary steps if you would like to stay profitable in the opening months and beyond.

Welcome to the rehab industry, we’ve got a lot of work to do.

Industry Overview

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency in the United States, over 23 million Americans from the age of 12 and above are addicted to alcohol and other drugs. Research from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), states that 2.5 million Americans received care at an addiction treatment facility in 2012. The market for addiction treatment according to SAMSHA is estimated to be about $35 billion per year with more than 14,000 treatment facilities in existence.

The demand for treatment facilities is largely driven by the availability of various factors such as new drugs and treatments, funding policies as well as insurance programs. Profitability for individual facilities depends on controlling costs as well as referrals.

Large scale rehabs tend to have a higher advantage to purchasing as well as marketing sources that would provide referrals. Small scale facilities have more leverage in competition by providing superior service, integration of treatments, and specialized treatments.

Think about what your approach should be. Do you plan to open a small boutique facility with specializations? Do you plan to expand? What is your niche and what special services can you offer to someone in need? These are all things to keep in mind when you decide to start a rehab center.

Get Licensing for Your Facility

Obtaining a license is the first and crucial step to opening your facility. You must remember that your patients will be attending your facility to receive help for dire mental health and medical conditions – whatever they may be. Therefore, like any medical facility, you must acquire a license to conduct business.

Licensing can be acquired through local authorities. It is possible that your state may have a “Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Committee” that you may be required to go through.

Anytime someone is planning to open their own recovery center or rehab, they must have the location of their facilities properly zoned. This can vary from state to state. If you are planning on opening a residential facility, your residences must be commercially zoned.

Some states require a “Certificate of Need” (CON) to start a rehab center. This is a two-step process. First, a letter of intent must be created. Second, an application must be filed. In most cases, applicants may need to pay a CON filing fee. This could be equal to .05% of any proposed capital expenditures. After the CON is filed, the applicant must meet certain requirements in order to receive their license.

Find a Property for Your Drug Rehab

While finding a property for your facility, it would be wise to pick a location that is convenient for your staff to get to as well as your patients. Now, this could be a double sided question depending on what type of treatment program you plan to open.

Do you intend to open a residential facility? In this case you will need to research and find properties to properly house your clients as well as office space where specialists can confidentially consult with them. Are you wanting to strictly open an outpatient program? Your offices mustn’t be too far for patients who commute. How many clients will you be treating? Will you need a reception area? The facility you end up choosing should have your patients in mind.

Spending the money to start a rehab center is worth the expense. As a patient, going to rehab can be a frightening thing. However, the more comfortable and pleasant the facility is, the more the patient will feel at ease. In some cases, you may be able to find a “campus-like” property in which the housing and the treatment buildings are either under the same roof or within close proximity to each other.


Why Does Accreditation Matter?

Your consumers will need a way to identify quality care. In addition to providing benefits to your facility or service provider, consumers will gain a level of confidence that your organization adheres to the highest quality standards.

In seeking an accreditation, your program will undergo an evaluation by an industry-respected third-party accrediting body. By undergoing such a rigorous task, family members and clients will be rest assured in knowing your facility has been assessed by the most respected organizations in addiction and mental health treatment.

Accreditation is an intensive process that takes time, money, and an examination of the program’s operations, client care, staff, safety programs, and policies. Seeking out this will no doubt put your facility above the rest as a quality differentiator and indication that your facility is striving to provide the best practices in addiction therapy.

Accrediting Bodies

The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF)

CARF is a non-profit accreditation body that evaluates substance abuse and dual-diagnosis programs. As the largest U.S. accrediting organization for addiction facilities, facilities that have met CARF-defined standards of care have attained the industry benchmark for quality programming.

How Do I Get CARF accredited?

  1. Speak with a designated CARF specialist.
  2. Conduct a self-evaluation with current CARF standards.
  3. Submit a survey application
  4. CARF invoices for a survey fee
  5. CARF selects the survey team
  6. The team conducts the survey
  7. CARF renders the accreditation decision for one of the following:
    1. Three-Year accreditation
    2. One-year accreditation
    3. Provisional accreditation
    4. Non-accreditation

The Joint Commission (JCAHO)

The other major player in the addiction program accreditation is the Joint Commission, the nation’s largest accrediting body for hospitals and medical facilities. Formerly known as JCAHO, the Joint Commission is also the second largest accrediting organization for addiction rehabilitation programs in the U.S. Numerous type of healthcare providers can earn accreditation from the Joint Commission, which has accredited more than 20,000 healthcare programs and providers.

How Do I Get JCAHO Accredited?

  1. Review requirements
  2. Conduct a self-assessment
  3. Implement actions needed to make any changes
  4. Apply for accreditation
  5. Prepare for your on-site survey
  6. The JCAHO team conducts the survey
  7. Complete requirements for improvement
  8. Publicize your achievement
  9. Stay in compliance

These days, more insurance companies are requiring one of these two accreditations in order for a patient to enter a facility. This means if you allow a patient to enter your facility and are not accredited, the insurance company will not pay out.

When opening a new facility, the task of becoming CARF and JCAHO accredited can be overwhelming. In many cases, people who start a rehab center look to marketing and advising agencies in order to earn these accreditations.

Devising a Business Plan

Every business – especially one of this nature will require a detailed and sustainable business plan. To succeed, you will need to create a sustainable and accurate plan. Business plans can be lengthy, but the ideas – simple. Questions to ask when creating your business plan can include but not be limited to:

  • What is my expected billable income?
  • What is my marketing budget and how will I use my marketing efforts to bring in new clients?
  • What is my expected revenue?
  • What are my projected expenses?
  • What is my prudent reserve?

When creating a formal business plan, you should think about separating your plan into six different sections.

Executive Summary

Your executive summary is the start of your formal plan, however it is recommended that you write it last. This is an overview of what your facility is all about and what you intend to achieve, your vision statement, goals and objectives, your services, and how you intend to have an advantage over your competitors. Ideally, your summary will want to be between one and two pages.

Opportunity in the Market

In order for any business to succeed, it needs to be fulfilling a service or solving a problem of a given market. This section is answering these questions:

  • What service are we providing?
  • How are we solving a need in our market?
  • Who is our target market and competition?

Be specific with your opportunity section. The better you understand your service, target market and your competition, the better off you will be.


Now comes the action. How will you execute your plans? This section answers the exact steps you plan to turn your plan into a sustainable and thriving business. Some questions to ask yourself can include:

  • What is your addiction marketing plan?
  • What are your operations and guidelines?
  • How are you going to measure success in your earnings? Most importantly, your measurements of success should be accompanied with a timeline.

Team and Company

Investors look for great talent just as much as they look at solid market opportunities. Without the right people in place, your plan could fall apart. Who is currently on your team? What open positions are you going to need to hire for when you start a rehab center?

Be sure to provide any specifications with legal structure or operating agreements. Be sure to include any location and also team history if the business is currently in place.

Financial Plan

The best way to devise a financial plan is to create an Excel document. List each expense you will have. Create a realistic revenue forecast. How many clients can you admit per month? What is the projected earning from each client? The more detail the better.

No business or business idea can thrive without finances no matter how noble or fantastic the business is. If you do not have capital, financing your facility can be very important. Where will you be attaining your investments from? What will be the financial forecast within the first year?

No investor will listen to your business idea if they do not see a concrete plan of how you intend to grow your business. When it comes to raising money for your treatment center there are several options available:

  • Getting a loan from banks or financial institutions
  • Approaching grants and donor organizations
  • Raising money from business partners or investors
  • Sale of personal property


If you need space for additional information, this is the place to do so.

What are the plans to scale in the future? Are there going to be any construction needed in the future and what is the inspection of your residence or office look like? Leave no stone unturned.

Hiring And Training Your Staff

The first attempt at success for starting a rehab center should be internal. Your objective in this area should be to employ staff who understand the vision and goals of your business so they can project this when they are working with your patients. When hiring staff, your needs will vary depending on which type of facility you chose to open. However, no matter what, this requires a few particular and vital staff members.

Clinical Director – The Clinical Director oversees the entire clinical staff. This could include your licensed therapists, and any employee that plays a role in treatment of the mental health of your clients.

Medical Director – The Medical Director oversees any medical needs and medical staff medical staff. This person is in charge of writing prescriptions and maintains the physical health and well being of the clients.

Medical Staff – You will need to hire nurses or RN’s. If you are also opening a detox center, you will need nurses who have experience in the detox process to assure their safety.

Clerical Staff – Every business needs staff members who can maintain the organization of the company. This could account for keeping patient files organized, keeping the licenses organized and readily accessible, or handling mail and running errands.

Case Workers – Case Worker’s work directly with a client and tracks their progress of treatment even after the client completes your program. Case Workers’ job description could include training for job skills and building good habits to maintain recovery after treatment.

Janitorial Staff – A treatment facility demands a well kept and clean environment. Treatment is an emotional process and having a well kept environment is important during that duration.

Intake and Marketing Staff – This department can vary. Some treatment centers chose to build a call-center and have their intake representatives works on site. Other facilities don’t need the capacity to field phone calls but rather can assign the intake to a member of the clerical staff. Some facilities choose to hire outside marketing companies to do the work for them.

Boost Your Brand

Strategies to boost your brand can help spike your facility to a new caliber. If you intend to start a large scale business, you may need to find brand experts to help promote your business.

Some platforms you can use in promoting your brand while also promoting your business are:

  • Advertising your business in health or related magazines
  • Making use of direct marketing
  • Making sure you attend health seminars and expos
  • Listing your facility on local directories
  • Utilizing social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram

Marketing Your Rehab

As is the case with any business, the marketing is an essential aspect in the health of the business.

Without the ability to bring in new clients, your treatment center as well as your investment, will be a failure. It is highly important that all of your marketing efforts need to be legal, ethical and effective. Without meeting all three of these criteria, eventually your treatment center and your business will fail.

Digital Marketing

In the modern marketing era, digital marketing is a must. Like we said previously, marketing is where most people fall flat in the recovery business. The internet provides the most effective and cost efficient avenue for marketing your addiction treatment facility. However, it is important to understand that even the best marketing agency will need time and adequate budget.

There are many different forms of digital marketing, and we will break down each one in order of importance and in the order that you should execute on them.

Search Engine Optimization

Search marketing is the strategy of getting your website to rank at the top of Google’s results pages for a search-query. Let’s imagine you open your new rehab in Tempe, AZ. Imagine how valuable it would be to have your rehab ranking at the top of Google for the search phrase “drug rehab in Tempe Arizona.”

Local Search Marketing

Local search is done mostly through Google’s online business directory. When you search for a local business, you are commonly brought to the map of that area with little pins pointing to the address of businesses in that area.

Social Media Marketing

Social Media is a great community building and branding tool to use when you start a rehab center. Facebook marketing also provides a great advertising platform in which you can leverage the content you create and put it in front of a large audience. Facebook also provides a great platform for you to keep in touch with your alumni.

If you’ve just read this and you feel overwhelmed, don’t worry, we can help. Addiction treatment marketing is now different than it ever was. Facilities are no longer dependent on referrals or word of mouth marketing. Now, you can have the opportunity to build your own brand, bring in your own clients independently without outside influence and start a rehab center successfully. From obtaining your accreditation to integrated marketing strategies, Stodzy Internet Marketing has years of experience and expertise in our unified approach and can be with you every step of the way.

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    Tim Stoddart

    Tim Stoddart is the CEO of Stodzy Internet Marketing. He lives in Nashville with his wife and hit adorable pitbull, Alice. Tim loves to write about digital marketing and personal growth. You can learn more at

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