Phony Arizona Treatment Facilities Target Native Americans

( – Scammers are always finding new ways to take advantage of vulnerable people. Reports indicate some bad actors are targeting people struggling with alcohol and drug addiction in the worst way possible. They are allegedly setting up phony treatment centers and targeting indigenous people.

In May, Arizona officials cracked down on Medicaid fraud. That led to hundreds of Native Americans being pushed into the streets after the state began suspending unlicensed sober living homes. The facilities were accused of billing schemes that left those struggling with addiction homeless in the Phoenix area.

Autumn Nelson, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, traveled from her home in Montana to a rehabilitation facility in Phoenix when she was struggling with alcohol addiction. Other people in the tribe recommended the center, so she purchased a one-way ticket to make the trip. She had been in the facility for a month when she began asking the staff why there was only one therapist serving 30 people. She also wanted to know why none of the staff members were Native Americans when the rehab claimed it catered to Native people.

Instead of addressing Nelson’s concerns, officials at the rehab kicked her out onto the street. She told The Associated Press that she was suddenly stuck in “108-degree heat […] was scared, and didn’t know where to go.”

Nelson became one of the many Native victims of the phony treatment facility scams. The scammers submitted fraudulent charges directly to the American Indian Health Program, which reimburses healthcare facilities for rendering services to Native American tribes.

In June, Navajo Nation Attorney General Ethel Branch and teams of other Native police officers reached out to almost 300 people, placing many of them in temporary housing, including hotel rooms. Others were transported back to their reservations.

Now, lawmakers in Montana and Arizona are warning officials in the rest of the country to look out for the scams.

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