March 21, 2024

How To Start a Drug Treatment Center: Factors To Consider Before the Doors Open

How To Start a Drug Treatment Center: Factors To Consider Before the Doors Open

When opening a drug treatment center, certain steps should be taken to ensure quality care, financial viability, and legal responsibilities.

From logistics to client acquisition, legalities and software requirements, starting a drug treatment center may seem like a huge undertaking.

If you follow the steps required in your location with some of our general tips, your drug treatment center can provide a valuable service while also turning a profit.

We share some of the location-based and non-location based factors involved when considering how to start a drug treatment center.

Table of Contents

Important Objectives To Keep in Mind When Starting a Treatment Center

Follow All Legal and Regulatory Requirements

Substance and alcohol abuse treatment centers must operate according to legal requirements and regulations or run the risk of being shut down by the state. When implementing licenses and fees, be aware that you may also be required to have specific policies and procedures that comply with your state’s code for the licensing to be accepted.

Accreditations from CARF, The Joint Commission, and other entities may be required by insurance companies to pay for treatment.

When considering all licensing and accreditation, it’s important to research the costs involved. To be fully compliant with state laws, sometimes costs can add up to thousands of dollars.

Create a Financially Sound Business Model

Your business model should be based on a feasibility study that factors in the need for a drug treatment center in your area. 

A feasibility study will provide valuable insights needed to plan a budget, such as:

  • What type of center is most needed
  • How big the center should be
  • Where the center should be located
  • How many beds will be required
  • What your staffing needs will be
  • What modalities of care are most needed

The information gathered in a feasibility study ensures that your business plan meets the needs of the community and what your start-up costs should be. But it also helps ensure that your center will remain profitable.

Creating a sound business plan may also help you to secure funding, as many banks and investors will ask to see your business model.

Provide Quality Care 

Every decision you make should be centered around providing quality care to potential drug treatment center clients. Without the right care, your treatment center likely won’t reach the success rate needed to be sustainable. 

Here are some steps to take:

  1. Determine what types of care and which modalities of care you’ll offer at your center, and build your treatment team around these goals.
  2. Factor location into providing proper care. You want to build your center in a location that is accessible to your target clientele. 
  3. Ensure you have a reliable and valid measurement system that tracks clients’ progress and response to treatment.

Ritten offers drug and alcohol treatment centers a modern approach to behavioral health EMRs. Our software allows you to track client progress and support clinical decision-making in real time. 

From standard assessments to custom measures, Ritten gives addiction treatment centers the tools to leverage data from notes and assessments, allowing for better management of their practice.

Without standardized metrics, measuring and demonstrating clients’ progress may prove to be difficult.

Considerations To Make When Determining How To Start a Drug Treatment Center in Any Locale

Facility Type and Location

Determining what type of facility is needed and where it should be is an essential step in starting a drug treatment center. The type of treatment offered will be the main factor when it comes to finding the right building. The need for treatment within a particular area will be the main factor in deciding how large or small your center needs to be.

For example, an outpatient treatment center will need far less square footage than a residential treatment center that needs to house 50 beds. 

Additionally, you’ll need to consider whether you should rent, buy, or build your treatment center because location affects current market rates.


Certain licensing, as well as an NPI, are usually required to open and operate a drug and alcohol treatment center. Most licensing, including zoning, is done through local and state authorities. Commercial medical zoning may be required for residential recovery centers.

An important first step is to create your Policy and Procedures manual. Licensing boards review the type of center you’re opening and how it will serve the community. Without the proper documentation or a complete and comprehensive P&P, your licensing could be rejected.

Records Management System

Start thinking about implementing an electronic records management system (EMR) before you begin seeing clients. Your behavioral health software should meet all regulatory requirements and be designed specifically for your type of care to be effective.

Implementing an EMR before you open your doors to clients also allows your director to train all staff to use your EMR to its fullest potential.

Ritten’s EMR software was designed specifically for behavioral healthcare facilities. Not only does Ritten help ensure compliance, but our software can be customized to suit your practice.

Through data-driven insights, drug and alcohol treatment providers can provide the best possible care right from the start.


Many insurance companies require one of two accreditations, either from CARF or The Joint Commission (JCAHO) in order to pay for behavioral health services. 

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), “The annual economic impact of substance misuse is estimated to be $249 billion for alcohol misuse and $193 billion for illicit drug use.

When looking at these numbers, you can see how important it is to operate with the proper accreditation. Without insurance company-required accreditations, your ability to receive clients may be limited. 

Ritten’s out-of-the-box CARF and Joint Commission compliance forms help ensure that facilities meet insurance requirements and that payment is received for all services rendered. 

Staffing and Training

Hiring the right staff to run your program is vital to the success of the facility and the level of care the client receives. Salaries will vary greatly and depend on the location of your facility and the position of the employee.

Positions that may need to be filled immediately include:

  • Clinical director
  • Administrative and clerical staff
  • Medical/clinical staff
  • Caseworkers
  • Janitorial and kitchen staff
  • Transportation staff

Training is a crucial step to ensuring your facility runs smoothly and can fulfill the care requirements of your clients. You’ll need to consider the cost of training technology, facilitators, and materials for all types of programming offered.

Client Sourcing

Remember to set aside some of your budget to include client acquisition. Simply building a drug treatment center doesn’t guarantee a clientele. Marketing and referrals will be a key part of your ongoing success.


Start your marketing process early. Find a marketing company that is familiar with drug and alcohol treatment centers to help build a name for your facility. 

Immediate marketing needs may include:

  • Website design
  • SEO services
  • Social media marketing
  • Lead generation, such as PPC (pay-per-click) 
  • Community outreach
  • Video marketing
  • Brochures
  • Business cards

The amount of money required can be determined according to your budget and feasibility study. A general rule is to budget your marketing services based on the number of beds you have. 


Word of mouth plays a huge role in attracting new clients to your treatment center. 

One study shows that at least 60% of all consumers do some basic online research before choosing a healthcare provider, whether for themselves or a family member.

This is why it’s beneficial to have a system in place that allows your former clients to review your treatment center online, such as a Google Business Profile.

Ask for reviews from your clients shortly after they complete their treatment, don’t wait too long. You can do this by sending a follow-up text or email or calling them on the phone. Let your clients know they have the option of remaining anonymous.

Managing your reviews is equally important. For every review received, a response should be left that thanks the client for the review and wishes them well in their continued recovery. Even negative reviews should receive a response that both thanks the client for reviewing and professionally addresses their concerns.

Ritten: Set Your New Center Up for Success With an EMR Software Designed for Modern Behavioral Health Treatment

Starting a drug treatment center is easier with Ritten. The future of behavioral health is data-driven and supported by EMR software that allows clinicians to focus on treatment rather than paperwork.

Ritten was designed to create an efficient admin process for substance abuse clinicians while maintaining compliance with CARF and JCAHO with ready-to-go compliant forms. 

Ritten provides tools that allow behavioral health clinicians to:

  • Track patient outcomes in real time
  • Manage complex schedules with rapid charting
  • Manage e-prescriptions and medications with ease
  • Drive referrals by maintaining critical relationships 
  • Maintain compliance with automatic alerts for incomplete or missing documentation

Our software is designed specifically for behavioral health facilities, and we’re dedicated to working with you to establish a modern EMR system that won’t break the bank.

When you set your medical and admin team up for success, you set your treatment center up for success. Book your free demo today and let Ritten give you one less thing to worry about when starting your drug treatment center.

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