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Who Regulates Drug Rehab Centers in California?

Who Regulates Drug Rehab Centers in California?

You need to trust your drug rehab center just as much as you’d trust your doctor, your hospital, or your psychologist. You’re heavily relying on a care provider to keep you safe and provide you with the tools you need during a difficult time in your life. 

Drug rehab centers exist to serve a very specialized need and work differently than your regular doctor’s office or clinic. It’s easy to understand how these other institutions came to be and what the standards are for the people who work there. You know the way they’re supposed to treat you and the things they’re supposed to provide for you. This may not be as clear with drug rehab centers.

Drug rehab centers are regulated just like any other medical or therapeutic facility. The process is slightly different than it might be for a facility where surgery might be performed, but oversight still plays a crucial role in establishing and regulating these centers.

What is the DHCS?

California’s drug rehabilitation centers are regulated by the Department of Health Care Services, or DHCS. DHCS is an institution deeply embedded in health care for all Californians. They regulate every kind of medical practitioner from dentists to substance abuse specialists. 

They’re responsible for instituting all health programs that Californians are eligible to receive, like Family Planning services and the Newborn Hearing Screening Program. 

They’ve created a giant umbrella over all health care and health care resources to assure that every Californian has equal access to the highest possible quality of care from every provider they see. They also help match underserved or financially disadvantaged people with services and resources they can use to manage their health care needs.

Since DHCS handles so much, it’s broken down into smaller sub-managed divisions. Each division of the DHCS focuses on a different branch of health care or health resources. Although drug rehab centers are regulated under the umbrella of DHCS, they’re under the specific purview of a branch designated specifically to that purpose. 

What is the SUDC?

The Substance Use Disorder Compliance division, or SUDC, is the division of the DHCS that handles all matters pertaining to substance abuse recovery. They oversee inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation programs for drug and alcohol addiction or misuse. The Licensing and Certification Branch (LCB) of the SUDC is ultimately responsible for determining which facilities are and are not eligible for licensure. 

Obtaining a license is not a one and done deal. Facilities are granted licensing for shorter terms, and must reapply for licensing before their current license expires. 

This helps the DHCS make sure that the standards and quality of care at a facility have not declined since they last received their license. DHCS will be sure that treatment centers use the best possible treatment methods available at all times. 

What Criteria Do Centers Need to Meet for Licensing?

The DHCS has a lengthy list of guidelines for rehabilitation centers that outlines the quality of the care they must provide, the services necessary for successful recovery treatment, the safety and sanitation of a facility and the required credentials of the staff who may work there.

Every rehabilitation center is held to the same high standards. The department regularly checks in with addiction care providers to assure that standards are being upheld. They also routinely investigate complaints made by patients of these facilities, and they may discover compliance issues during these investigations. 

When this happens, the license for a facility can be suspended or revoked. 

Does Everyone at a Regulated Center Fully Recover?

Recovery is not a task of the rehab center, but a task of the patient. 

The center’s job is to keep you safe and provide you with drug rehabilitation treatment tools that are proven to be effective. The work of maintaining sobriety falls on your lap. The center will be there to support you, and in some cases, provide aftercare to maximize your chances for success even after the inpatient program is over.

Even the best rehabilitation center in the world cannot overtake the free will of a patient. If the patient leaves and decides to turn back to drugs or ignore their recovery plan, there’s nothing the center can do.

If you’re looking to recover from drug addiction, you need to make the right decisions every day of your life after treatment is over. Your treatment specialist can only fill your toolbox and teach you how to use those tools. It’s up to you how and when you take that toolbox out. 

Are Unregulated Centers Unsafe?

Unregulated centers are often unregulated because they cannot prove that any of the treatment methods they’re using are safe or effective. This is often the case with faith-based drug rehabilitation centers that prefer to approach rehabilitation through prayer or religious ritual rather than proven medical strategies to preserve the health and safety of a patient. 

When you pay money for inpatient drug rehabilitation, you want to know that exchange of money was for a legitimate service. Unregulated centers often take people’s money without doing anything other than offering them room and board for 30 days. 

With no qualified professionals on staff or care standards to abide by, they cannot actually demonstrate any foundation of results for their methods and cannot call themselves treatment programs.

How Often Are Licenses Checked?

The SDUC’s LCB team frequently checks rehab centers to assure their compliance. They suspend or revoke licenses from facilities that do not provide adequate care, and serve unlicensed facilities with notices that tell them to either become licensed or close their doors. 

The state of California takes addiction recovery centers very seriously. More centers close than open each year. Centers that cut corners, fail to meet licensing requirements, or attempt to circumvent the law’s requirement for licensure are promptly handled. 

How Do I Know If a Center is Regulated?

The SUDC keeps a list of all centers it regulates with vital data regarding that center. It lists the name of the care provider, the address of the facility, the status and expiration date of the license, the type of services the facility is allowed to offer, and the maximum number of residents the treatment center can serve.

It also provides designations for what it calls “Target Populations.” This indicates whether a facility is co-ed, exclusive to one sex, exclusive to adolescents, designated for dual diagnosis patients, or if the facility targets a mixture of patients. 

How Do I Find a Regulated Drug Rehab Center in California?

The first thing you need to consider is what you intend to gain from treatment. 

If you are still an active drug user, you’ll need to safely detox in a supervised environment. Not all treatment centers are also certified as detox centers. It’s easier and safer to have your care managed by the same team from beginning to end. Choosing one facility that provides both the detox and the treatment often fares better for the patient’s overall rehab experience. 

Then, you’ll have to decide how far you’re willing to travel to receive treatment. Some people prefer to leave their past far behind them while they’re in recovery, and others like the idea of staying close to home. Some people don’t care about the location of their rehabilitation facility as much as they care about what the facility can provide for them. It’s up to you to choose your priorities and reconcile them with your commute. 

When you have an idea of what you’re looking for, you can conduct a Google search for top rated rehabilitation facilities within that general area. View the websites for those most appealing to you, and create a list of pros and cons. 

You might love the comfort and amenities a facility provides, but be less than enthusiastic about the idea of sharing them with the 50 other people in that facility. You might find a boutique facility that treats less than ten people at a time, but discover that they don’t offer the detox services you need. 

Take some time to make notes and narrow down your list until you’ve found a facility or two that seem to meet all of your most pressing needs.

Then, use the DHCS’s search tool to verify the information you’ve found. You can check licensing status, program qualifications, and maximum residency. If the information you obtained from the website accurately reflects the information DHCS has on file, you’ve found a reliable drug rehabilitation center. 


The process of rehabilitating from drug addiction is serious and important. Not all care providers are equal. Don’t fall prey to the promises of alternative centers or unlicensed centers. They can’t provide you with the quality of treatment you need to get your life back on track. 

Aside from licensing requirements, accreditation and certification from The Joint Commission is also worth looking for. The Joint Commission was founded over 50 years ago and helps set a standard for what quality healthcare looks like. You can learn more about them and their requirements here. 

The DHCS understands what you’re going through and strives to be sure that every licensed care provider you can possibly choose from will be able to serve you with safe, proven, effective, and reliable care. 


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