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Nonprofit, for-profit, or public mental health and addiction treatment: pros and cons


Depending on your mental health or addiction recovery needs and goals, where you go for treatment is an important consideration. Beyond considering how much care your health insurance will cover, other factors may also influence this very important decision. Looking at the costs of both treatment settings together with the services and quality of care available can help you determine the right one for you.


The basic types of services provided by nonprofit, for-profit, or public treatment facilities for mental health and/or addiction issues include:

  • Detox programs – Detox is considered the most intensive level of care. This type of treatment helps patients rehabilitate under 24 hour medical supervision and specifically addresses life-threatening withdrawal from alcohol, opiates, and other substances. 
  • Inpatient or Residential Treatment programs – These targeted treatment programs support and stabilize patients in a controlled and secure environment.
  • Outpatient and Intensive Outpatient Programs (OP/IOP) – Outpatient programs are generally considered the least intensive form of treatment program. These programs let people live on their own and typically consist of individuals visiting a treatment center several days a week for a few hours at a time.

As discussed below, however, private treatment facilities may provide more services or and longer treatment.

Private Treatment Facilities – Nonprofit or for-profit

Private treatment facilities are run by either a nonprofit or for-profit organization, and patients are responsible for paying the total cost of treatment, either through insurance (commercial, Medicare, or Medicaid), out-of-pocket, or both.  Treatment ranges from the more affordable care offered by nonprofit facilities to luxury treatment provided by some for-profit facilities, so you’ll find a good mix of available options.  

Available treatment options:  Private treatment facilities are typically better funded than public facilities and can afford to offer broader and more personalized treatment options, including remote or teletherapy, family counseling, care coordination, exercise, art, and cooking. With generally lower wait times than public treatment facilities, patients might also get treatment more quickly.

Diverse location opportunities: Residential treatment centers can offer a variety of settings, often including peaceful, relaxed and secluded locations.  These atmospheres may help patients reflect on and process their experiences without an abundance of distraction from the outside world. Some inpatient facilities offer private rooms for more privacy, which can be important with severe withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, fever, insomnia, and depression. Some facilities even let loved ones stay on-site during client treatment and rehabilitation.

Long-term focus: Private treatment facilities are often geared more toward clients’ long-term recoveries. They typically have the resources to follow up with patients regularly after they graduate from a program. Return visits, interviews, and continued group therapy may also be part of treatment, helping clients transition more easily from treatment into life after sobriety.

Costs: In for-profit treatment facilities, patients can receive therapy for as long as they need and can afford it. These types of facilities do take commercial insurance but coverage may be limited depending on the services included and may not accept Medicare or Medicaid. Month-long stays at residential private treatment facilities range widely in cost. For example, some inpatient facilities may cost around $6,000 for a 30-day stay while others may be as high as $60,000.1

Nonprofit treatment facilities are generally less expensive and, because of that, are a popular treatment solution among those of more modest resources. These facilities do accept Medicare and Medicaid, in addition to commercial insurance, and, typically, offer financial aid or different payment options, such as payment plans or fees based on a sliding scale.

It is also important to note that nonprofit treatment facilities offer services that may not add to the company’s bottom line, but do so because those services would not be otherwise available to the community. Nonprofit providers are often the last line of defense in terms of providing vital safety net services in rural or sparsely populated communities.

Public Treatment Facilities

Public treatment facilities provide an alternative route when private treatment facilities just aren’t feasible. State and local governments run them and fund them through taxes. 

Available treatment options: Similar to  other treatment facilities (except for the luxury, private treatment facilities), care options often include step meetings, counseling, outpatient care, case management, and intensive community treatment. Patients may also get referrals for employment, day programs, and residential services. Some treatment centers provide emergency walk-in services or mobile crisis units for on-site evaluations. However,  the care doesn’t often reflect as much customization to the individual, or provide as many ‘extras’ that you might find at a for-profit or nonprofit private treatment center. 

Quality of care: Public facilities are often in urban, more heavily populated areas, which means more noise and other distractions. The amount of funding available may affect the level of treatment patients receive, especially during economic downturns, when governments may limit or cut costs entirely. Tighter financial resources can result in longer wait lists for treatment, less staff and fewer service options. Also, treatment may focus more on group rather than individual care due to the greater number of people typically admitted for treatment. While aftercare treatment may be available, it may not be as expansive as at private treatment facilities.

Costs: Typically, services are free or based on income for those who can’t afford treatment or who lack insurance coverage.

How to choose

Which type of facility fits your needs the best? Well, as with most things in life, it depends. Private care can be more expensive yet give you more control over the services you receive. Treatment at public treatment facilities may come at little to no cost, but with fewer options, especially if you need long-term care.

Explore which aspects suit your situation and are most important to you. Beyond costs, consider the treatments each facility offers, how soon and for how long you may receive care, if there is follow up after the initial treatment phase, and, if important to you, whether having loved ones around you is available. The bottom line, however, is that any qualified treatment for mental health or addiction is likely far better than no treatment at all, and most types of treatment have helped a great number of people improve their lives. 

As a private, nonprofit treatment facility, Citizen Advocates is here to help. If you or a loved one need mental health or addiction treatment, contact Citizen Advocates today to learn more about your options.