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Start a Treatment Center

How to start a Rehab Center

Expert Addiction Treatment Advice for Health and Addiction Services

Opening your drug rehab center or treatment facility is not something to be taken lightly. Addiction is a baffling disease, and the appropriate assistance must come from good hands. The addiction treatment market is around $35 billion annually and supports over 14,000 treatment centers.

What will your drug rehab or treatment center offer to those in need? What do you have that a sick person could not find somewhere else? This article will go into depth on how to open your rehab or addiction treatment center, starting with your vision and ending with the opening of your doors.

As the rehab or treatment center endeavor is a business, there are specific steps that you need to take to reach the people in need successfully. We have broken down the process of opening your rehab or treatment center into eight stages, which we have listed below. Within these eight steps, there are multiple things that you need to do to move on to the next step. Remember that being thorough, prepared, and aware are three critical elements of successfully opening your center.

How to start a Rehab

Step 1: Do Your Research

You need to know everything that there is to know about the industry. How many people suffer? How old are they? Are they primarily male, female, or other? How does it affect family members? Where do they live? What is their financial situation? What are their first steps? What methods of recovery and treatment have they already tried? What sort of environment are they looking for?

What grants are available to you? What sets you apart from the others? What profit margin would you like to see? How big do you want the business to be? What are your vision and mission, and what are your values?

What are the success rates of new rehab and treatment centers? What makes for a thriving treatment center? Why do particular rehab or treatment centers fail?

What do you need to have to open a rehab or treatment center?

What is drug addiction? What is alcohol addiction? What are the current treatment options currently on the market? What works, and what does not work? What do people think, know, understand, and do not understand about addiction? What are people’s thoughts on rehab and treatment centers? What are your thoughts on rehab and treatment centers?

What is your plan B?

These are all fundamental questions that you need to ask yourself and others. The answers to these questions will make you more aware of the current trends surrounding addiction, rehab, and treatment centers.

Once you have conducted your initial research, you can move on to the following steps, which entail acting upon everything that you have learned in your research.

Step 2: Find a Location

Your location will depend primarily on whether or not your center will be a residential facility. That being said, you still need to consider a couple of things:

  • Is the location convenient for staff and patients?
  • What types of buildings will you need to house your clients?
  • What type of office space is necessary for your specialists to meet with clients confidentially?
  • Will you offer specialized Mental Health Treatments like Dual-Diagnosis Treatment at your recovery center?
  • What treatment programs will you offer with your treatment facility? Will you have licensure to offer Inpatient/residential treatment, Outpatient Program, IOP, Detox, Alcohol rehab?
  • How many clients will you be treating? Will you have the required staffing?
  • Do you need a reception area?
  • How will you make the facility warm and inviting?

After considering the type of facility you will have and settling on a location, it is time to get licensed.

How to open a residential recovery center to help loved ones
Understanding the costs associated with opening a treatment program is just the first step in the process.
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Step 3: Get Licensed

You will need to be licensed to conduct business, and you can acquire your license through local authorities, such as your state’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Committee.

If your facility is residential, the residences need to be commercially zoned. If your state requires a Certificate of Need (CON) to start a rehab center, you must be prepared to go through a two-step zoning process. 1. Write a letter of intent. 2. Fill out and submit an application. You will probably have to pay a CON filing fee, which might be .05% of your proposed capital expenditures. Once the CON is filed, you will have to meet their requirements before receiving the license:

  • You must be licensed to do business in the field of addiction.
  • You need to share your Policy and Procedures manual with the licensing board to know what kind of treatment center you will open.
  • You need to apply for a behavioral health license.

Once you are licensed, you can form a business plan.

Step 4: Formulate a Pro-Forma and Business Plan

The Pro-forma helps you to estimate expected revenue, billable income, and expenditures. It will help you understand the investment involved in starting a rehab or treatment center, and it is the place where you focus on your marketing budget (which will bring you revenue). Your business plan needs to be detailed, simple, and sustainable, and in creating it, you need to address:

  • Your expected billable income
  • Your marketing budget
  • How will your marketing bring in new clients
  • Your expected revenue
  • Your projected expenses
  • Your prudent reserve

Once you get the answers to these questions, structure your business plan into six sections:

  • Executive Summary: write this last, which will go at the beginning of your business plan. It describes your facility, mission, vision, goals, services, values, and advantage over competitors. It needs to be 1-2 pages in length.
  • Opportunity in the Market: what problem are you solving? You need to explain the service you provide, how you are solving the problem, and your target market and competition.
  • Execution: You need to explain how you will execute your plans. How will your business plan translate into a successful business? You need to know your marketing plan, your operations and guidelines, and how you will measure success in your earnings concerning timing.
  • Team and Company: You need to have a team put together and know what positions you are hiring for.
  • Financial Plan: create an Excel document and create a realistic revenue forecast by listing each expense, your monthly client capacity, and expected earnings from each client. You need to know how you are getting your investments and the first year’s financial forecast. You need to have a plan for raising money, including bank or financial institution loans, grants, business partners, and personal property sales.
  • Appendix: Include any additional information here, like future scaling plans.

Once you have your plans put together, you can focus on getting accredited.

Your business plan needs to be detailed, simple, and sustainable.

Step 5: Get Accredited

If you are accredited, health insurance providers will cover the healthcare costs of your client’s care. Some marketing and advising agencies can help you get accredited. You need to be familiar with two accrediting bodies: CARF and JCAHO. The non-profit Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) evaluates programs that deal with substance abuse and dual diagnosis. You can get accredited with CARF by:

  • talking with a CARF specialist
  • self-evaluating according to CARF standards
  • completing and submitting the survey application
  • going through with the survey
  • accepting the accreditation, which could be: three-year, one-year, provisional, or non-accreditation

The Joint Commission accredits hospitals, medical rehab facilities, and addiction rehabilitation programs. To get accredited, you need to:

  • review requirements, go through with a self-assessment, and make any necessary changes
  • apply
  • go through with the survey
  • complete improvement requirements
  • publicize and stay in compliance

Once you are accredited, you are ready to get started on building up your staff.

Step 6: Find and Train Staff

You need to pay special attention to developing your core staff. These people need to know your business’s ins and outs, mission, vision, and values. You might consider hiring people to fill the following positions:

  • Clinical Director: oversees the clinical staff.
  • Medical Director: oversees the medical staff.
  • Medical staff: nurses.
  • Clerical staff: for patient files, licenses, mail, errands, and more.
  • Case Workers: work with clients, especially after the client leaves the program.
  • Janitorial Staff: to keep the environment clean.
  • Intake and Marketing Staff: you might want a call center and to do your own marketing.

If you are doing your marketing, you need to spread the word in different places. Consider magazines that have to do with health and wellness, list your facility in any local directories, advertise on social media platforms (LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook), direct market, and attend seminars, conferences, and expos. Marketing is a serious step in making your rehab or treatment center into a successful business.

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Step 7: Market

Marketing is how you bring new clients to your doors. That said, your marketing must be practical, ethical, and legal; otherwise, your business will fail. The best way you can market in today’s world is with digital marketing. These are different forms:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): This is how you move your website to the top of Google’s search results page.
  • Local Search Marketing: Make sure your business shows up when people conduct a local search in your industry.
  • Social Media Marketing: Different platforms might work better, depending on the type of recovery program you offer. Art therapy might have a better marketing presence on Instagram, for instance. Social media allows you to reach a vast audience and share a lot of content, and you can also set up ways to stay connected with your alumni.

Once you have everything lined up, you are ready to open your doors.

Step 8: Open Your Doors

Before you open your doors, you must first pat yourself on the back. To get to this point, you have accomplished quite a bit.

You did your research, found a location, got licensed, formulated a Pro-forma and business plan, got accredited, found and trained your staff, and then put yourself out there. Now you are ready to open your doors.


Opening your rehab or treatment center can be a good goal and accomplishment, and it needs to be done right. Once you decide to open your rehabilitation center, everything else can easily fall into place, so long as you are thorough in your research, prepared, and aware.


infographic: how-to open your own addiction treatment center

Published on: 2020-09-03
Updated on: 2024-05-07