The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation on Wednesday announced it has filed a federal lawsuit against Freedom Healthcare of America LLC (FHA), which does business as Addiction Campuses, as well as Addiction Enders and its sole proprietor, Fraser Cooke of Ontario, Canada. The lawsuit was filed Aug. 14 in the U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.
In the lawsuit, Hazelden Betty Ford alleges:
- FHA engaged in unauthorized use of its name and likeness to “actively and intentionally target Minnesota consumers by misleadingly highlighting Minnesota-located programs, including Hazelden, with webpages that include electronic contact forms and prominently placed phone numbers for ‘admission’ or ‘assessment’ phone calls” on a website it operates, drugrehab.org.
- On or around April 28, a user of the website who was attempting to search for Hazelden landed on drugrehab.org and called a number for “Hazelden” under the belief he/she was contacting Hazelden Betty Ford, but instead was redirected to a treatment center in Massachusetts.
- The user was then contacted by an FHA employee with an offer of a scholarship to cover the full amount of the user’s health insurance deductible to attend the Massachusetts facility.
Addiction Enders and its proprietor Cooke are accused of engaging in similarly misleading behaviors.
“Addiction Campuses is aware of the complaint filed by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation,” an Addiction Campuses representative said in a statement emailed in response to a Behavioral Healthcare Executive inquiry on Thursday. “We take these accusations very seriously. We have reached out to Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation CEO and President Mark Mishek’s office about the matter and are in communication with their team.”
Mishek tells Behavioral Healthcare Executive that the organization received Addiction Campuses’ communication Thursday and referred it to its legal representatives.
Hazelden Betty Ford has dealt with similar issues dating back to before Hazelden and the Betty Ford Center merged in 2014, Mishek says.
“Both Hazelden and Betty Ford before we merged had this irritating background noise of organizations trying to leech off our brands and our names, particularly the Betty Ford Center,” Mishek says. “There’s been a constant stream of treatment centers and other people in the field using the name in one way, shape or form. There’s nothing unusual about that.
“What has really changed over the last year has been how brazen these organizations are in terms of using the name and how deceptive they’ve become, to the point that patients and families are actually being hurt. What this complaint is, is our attempt [with] these three particular defendants who have been particularly bad, to get our name, likeness, images, URL off of their websites entirely.”
Filing a lawsuit over perceived misuse of its intellectual properties is a shift in strategy for Hazelden Betty Ford. Previously, Mishek says, the organization would reach out to companies it felt were misusing its name and likeness with cease and desist letters.
“That’s the customary way of doing it,” he says. “We’re going to stop doing that now. We’re going to start going after them right away because they know they’re doing it. They know exactly what they’re doing now. We’ve notified all these directories—there are 50 or 60 of them out there—we don’t want to be in your directory. Don’t use our name or likeness. You don’t have our permission. And yet, it doesn’t stop them from doing it.
“Everyone in the field now has got to start standing up and asserting their ethical practices and shutting these places down when they see this happen.”