Private vs. Public Rehab [What to Know & How to Choose]

Rehab, both inpatient and outpatient, can be extremely useful for those who are deep in their addiction. Beyond being a great resource, detox facilities can also be critical for people who are at risk of suffering from dangerous withdrawals. Detox followed by inpatient or outpatient treatment can give you a great foothold in recovery.   

Along with the distinction between inpatient and outpatient, there is a distinction between public and private rehab. Public rehab means exactly what it sounds like it means, a rehab facility funded with public money. Private rehabs are run by privately-owned organizations with proper licensing.   

You might assume that public facilities aren’t as effective as private facilities, given the nature of the wealth divide and our country’s healthcare system (not venturing any further into that discussion, lest we open the can of inland taipans, blue-ringed octopuses, box jellyfish and cone snails that is politics. Also yes, I Googled “most venomous animals” to write that list). But that’s a false assumption, both public and private rehab facilities can be effective.    

In this article, we’re going to discuss the differences between public and private rehab.

The Differences Between Public & Private Rehab

Let’s get the obvious difference out of the way first. Public rehab facilities are generally state-run, meaning they are funded by government programs and taxpayer dollars. Private rehab facilities are run by private organizations, be it non-profit or for-profit. Notable private rehab facilities in Oregon are Hazelden, Crestview and Oregon Trail Recovery. Private rehab facilities offer both inpatient and outpatient programs (which will be covered in the next section) and accept various insurances. One aspect of searching for a private rehab facility is finding out which facility will accept your insurance.

Public rehab facilities, as mentioned, are state-funded. The cost for public rehab facilities is lower than private facilities (shocking, I know) and can be a great alternative for people who can’t afford private rehab. They also act as an infinitely better alternative to incarceration for non-violent drug offenders.

Understanding Inpatient vs Outpatient 

You may have already heard it mentioned in this article, “inpatient and outpatient”. But what do those terms mean? 


Inpatient rehab means that you are living in a rehab facility 24/7. My first introduction to recovery was being placed in inpatient treatment at Hazelden in Minnesota. The typical day involved group addiction counseling sessions, group mental health counseling (this changed depending on the day), individual sessions with a therapist and psychiatrist (also changed depending on the day), AA/NA meetings/speaker meetings, a wellness hour (basically gym class for addicts/alcoholics) and provided meals. On top of that, we also had some group outings.  

Experiences vary depending on the inpatient facility, but generally they have the same layout. Group sessions, individual counseling, meals, meetings, and staying overnight. Therein lies the difference between public and private rehab. According to American Addiction Centers, state-funded rehabs generally don’t offer the latest in complementary therapeutic offerings or other treatment trends. That doesn’t mean it’s less effective (studies show that public rehab is still effective and has positive outcomes), but they won’t necessarily have the most current technologies and treatments. A lot of times they won’t offer the same level of mental health counseling you would get in a private rehab facility.


Outpatient rehab means you go to a rehab facility for a certain number of hours per day, but don’t stay overnight at the facility. I have experience with this type of treatment as well, having gone to Hazelden IOP in Minnesota and in Oregon. It generally involves a certain number of hours of group counseling sessions, group recovery sessions and individual counseling. Outpatient treatment allows you to seek drug and alcohol treatment while still working.  

The difference regarding technologies and treatments generally isn’t as pronounced in public vs. private outpatient treatments, but it is still there. Again, that doesn’t mean public rehab isn’t effective. 


Advantages of Private Rehab 

As you might imagine, private rehab does have some distinct advantages over public rehab. Some of the advantages of private rehab include: 

Personalized Treatment Plans 

Private rehab facilities generally have more resources to give to each patient, which allows them to set up much more personalized/customizable plans. For example, during my stay at Hazelden, I had custom group and individual therapy sessions based on previously diagnosed anxiety issues.   

No Waiting List 

One of the disadvantages of public rehab facilities is that you will often end up on a waiting list for a spot. This is generally not something you experience with private rehab. 

Medical Supervision 

In private rehab, you can generally expect closer medical supervision than in a public facility.  

Transitional Planning 

Eventually you’re going to leave rehab, and it’s important to have a plan in place for when you do. In private rehab, you will have more access to transitional resources and planning. 


Preparing for Private Rehab 

Entering rehab is a massive step towards a massive change. You’ll be going from active addiction to living 24/7 in a drug treatment center. This means leaving work for an extended amount of time and being away from your family. While the family line may sound sad, you’re leaving temporarily to get healthy. Your family and friends want to see you healthy and happy. All that said, here are some ways you can prepare for inpatient treatment:  

Take care of work obligations  

The companies and people we work for aren’t going to stop operations entirely when you enter inpatient treatment. That said, employers want a sober, healthy employee. Even if they’re a company that doesn’t care about the employee’s health on a personal level, sober employees are going to be more reliable workers. To top that off, the law is on your side. Specifically the Family and Medical Leave Act, which gives you up to 12 weeks of guaranteed paid medical leave.  

Handle Financial Obligations  

Bills are another thing that don’t go away when you enter inpatient. Make sure you have rent and bill payments scheduled while you’re in rehab. 

Take Care of Family Obligations 

If you have children or pets that you’re a caretaker for, you need to find a babysitter or pet-sitter to take care of them while you’re gone. They can’t take care of each other alone either. As awesome as dogs are they can’t take care of human children. That weird children’s book from the early 90s where a rottweiler takes care of a human baby is not a true story.  

Check your rehab facility’s list of approved/banned items 

Make sure you don’t accidentally bring any contraband items into rehab, and make sure you have basic things you need for a multi-week stay in treatment.  


inpatient rehab facilities


Pros and Cons of Public Rehab 

There are pros and cons of public treatment facilities. These vary by state, but in general, they include: 


Lower Cost: Not everyone has the means to afford private drug and alcohol treatment. This is especially true of many addicts and alcoholics. Public facilities can give critical care to people who otherwise couldn’t afford it.  

Alternative to Incarceration: We could write an entire book about how much damage the “War on Drugs” and the incarceration of drug addicts has done. Luckily, as time has passed people realized that rehabilitation would probably be a better treatment for addiction than incarceration. Who would’ve thought (I mean, besides people with any knowledge of addiction)? Public rehab is an infinitely better placement for a non-violent drug offender than incarceration.  


(Potential) Limited Eligibility: This varies depending on the state, but oftentimes public facilities are given limited funding, which translates to limited eligibility. There may be strict eligibility standards for public facilities.  

Waiting Lists: Related to the limited eligibility, there is a possibility of being put on a waiting list to get a spot in a facility.  

Less Individualized Treatment: Oftentimes public facilities have less resources than privately run facilities, this can result in less customized treatment for each patient. 


Powering through Mental Health in Withdrawal


Considerations for Making Your Decision 

There are many things to consider when choosing between rehab programs and facilities. Inpatient, outpatient, public, private, etc. Some considerations include:  


Are you able to take extended amounts of time away from work? This can be a critical factor in choosing between inpatient and outpatient 

Program Content 

Do you need additional mental health treatment? Do you have special medical requirements? These are all things to consider when choosing a program.  


What is your budget and what can your insurance cover? The importance of this is pretty self-explanatory. 


Related to cost, what will your insurance cover? This can drastically reduce the cost of rehab. 


If you are being ordered to go to rehab by the courts, will this satisfy those requirements? Yes, the most important thing is getting sober, but if you’re facing legal trouble, another thing to worry about is whether you can get credit for court orders.  

Family Support 

What kind of family sessions does the facility offer? How much contact do you have with your family while in rehab?   


OTR Can Help 

Speaking of treatment, Oregon Trail Recovery offers top-notch outpatient treatment and detox through our sister company, Pacific Crest Trail Detox. Contact us today to start your recovery journey with us.