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SAMHSA Hotline Dominates Search

Wednesday June 17, 2020

Reading Time: 9 minutes

The top section of the Google search results page was recently replaced by a large banner showing a SAMHSA (Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration) addiction hotline number. SAMHSA is a government agency whose website contains addiction and mental health resources. This change has been implemented in certain states, and according to a source at Google, it will soon be implemented nationwide. In the coming weeks, the majority of addiction-related terms will trigger this banner to show above the fold, before paid ads and organic listings.

Desktop Example

SAMSHA hotline desktop

Mobile Example

SAMHSA hotline mobile


Google’s Hotline Boxes

The top section prominently displaying the SAMHSA phone number is referred to as a hotline box: a part of Google’s knowledge panel. Today, a Google source confirmed that they are applying hotline boxes to addiction-related terms. Google does this for important searches that suggest a crisis or emergency requiring immediate help, like human trafficking and suicide.

The exact layout of the page differs slightly by term and device, but overall the SAMHSA number occupies the top. Google Ads have been moved either under the hotline banner or to the bottom of the page. A majority of the time, the top result receives the most clicks.

Combine this with the phone number being recommended by Google and a government behavioral health directory, and the advantage for SAMHSA is enormous. A large portion of leads will be calling this number.

What Happens When You Call SAMHSA?

So, what exactly happens when SAMHSA’s hotline number is dialed? We tested it and received a list of the 5 treatment centers closest to our location which is their standard practice.

Although the intentions of this are good, there are an array of issues that arise, affecting user experience from both a search and addiction treatment perspective.

Dialing the SAMHSA hotline directs you to the closest centers, when local help isn’t always the best option. There are times where an individual needs to get out of toxic environment to have the best chance at recovery. Additionally, local centers may not offer the appropriate levels of care or clinical services required by the individual.

The Impact on LegitScript and Google Advertising

Taking away the top section of the search results page diminishes the value and purpose of LegitScript certification and centers competing fairly for addiction treatment terms. Addiction marketing online became so unethical that Google banned addiction related ads until a strict certification process could be implanted. That certification process became LegitScript certification.

Many treatment centers pay thousands of dollars and dedicate dozens of hours to becoming LegitScript certified to be able to run Google Ad campaigns. Search ads show at the top of the search results, and therefore drive many leads to treatment centers.

Removing the top section and replacing it with a hotline number moves Google Ads down the page, diminishing the value of Google Ads and the value of certification.

Diminishing the value of LegitScript certification isn’t in the best interest of the treatment industry or those seeking help. LegitScript assures a center is licensed/certified, but also goes into a much more rigorous process to make sure the center is ethical and provides quality treatment.

The requirements for being listed on SAMHSA are much more lax than becoming LegitScript certified.

What Treatment Centers are on SAMHSA?

There are several non-certified centers on SAMHSA. On our first search, the third treatment center listed on SAMHSA had a facility name that was questionable, which made us think it could be a lead generation company. This listing didn’t have a website, so we Googled the address, revealing a different treatment center’s website whose name didn’t match the name on the directory. Upon further research, we found the original center’s name was changed because the owners were arrested for patient brokering a year ago. Patient brokering is akin to human trafficking, meaning that the Google hotline that seeks to help those in crisis can actually cause unintended harm.

Protecting those seeking addiction treatment from unscrupulous players is precisely what the industry worked so hard to achieve.

If we’re putting addiction in the same category as suicide and human trafficking, we need to hold it to the same standard of delicacy and scrutiny. If an individual considering taking their own life or a victim of human trafficking called a hotline with unsafe resources, it would be unacceptable.

Help Stop Google from Implementing the Addiction Hotline

Since not all centers on SAMHSA are LegitScript Certified or members in good standing at the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, we want to urge Google to stop using the hotline box for addiction related searches.

If you’d like to help, mention the hotline to your Google Ads representative during your next meeting or submit feedback on the hotline box. To submit your feedback on the hotline, click the small grey feedback text in the bottom right corner of the box.

hotline feedback

After clicking the link a box will appear that will give you the opportunity to voice your concerns.

Reading Time: 14 minutes

Black Lives Matter: Nashville

The recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery have sparked protests across America, with some of the most notable taking place in Nashville, Tennessee. Through marches, phone calls, and petitions, Tennesseans have called for legislators to enact meaningful change in the form of public policy. As Nashville responds to Black Lives Matter, we want to keep you abreast of developments in local protests, recent rulings, and ways to get involved.

Unaffiliated Looting and Arson

Nashville has been home to some of the most well-documented protests of the past several weeks. For example, a peaceful demonstration on May 31st gave way to looting and vandalism at the Metro Courthouse, prompting Mayor John Cooper to declare a state of civil emergency. The days following saw 10 p.m. curfews, along with the arrest of 25-year-old Wesley Somers in connection with fires lit at the courthouse.

The Equity Alliance, one of the “I Will Breathe” rally organizers, tweeted, “We witnessed white people defacing public property while marching and told them to stop. The people attempting to set fire to the Metro Courthouse right now are NOT associated with today’s peaceful protest rally… It is our firm belief that those individuals defacing and destroying public property after the rally were not part of the original event.”

Nashville police tried to identify the individuals associated with acts of vandalism, whom they say hijacked the demonstration and used it “as a cover for the destruction they wanted to employ.” Police spokesman Don Aaron said that the Nashville Police Department suspects that white supremacist groups could have been involved, although it is too early to know for sure.

Mayor Cooper voiced his support of the afternoon’s demonstration, tweeting that the rally was peaceful and adding that, “We cannot let today’s message of reform descend into further violence. If you mean our city harm, go home.”

Six Teen Girls Organize Peaceful Protest

Fortunately, the demonstrations that followed have not been marred by outside influence or acts of violence. A particularly bright spot in recent news is last Thursday’s Black Lives Matter protest, which was organized by a group of six teen girls. Nya Collins, Zee Thomas, Emma Rose Smith, Kennedy Green, Jade Fuller, and Mikayla Smith – all students ranging in age from 14 to 16 – took just five days to organize the June 4th demonstration.

“We felt like we needed to do more, because change is not going to just happen overnight. We’re teens and we weren’t seeing any youth speaking up because they didn’t feel like they have a voice,” said Emma Rose, 15, a sophomore from Franklin, TN. “We wanted to show teenagers and youth that we need you guys and we do have a voice.”

Emma Rose and the other organizers met on Twitter and formed a group called Teens4Equality. Through a group text thread, the girls coordinated and spread the word, reaching out to other organizations and sharing flyers to social media. They met for the first time on the day of the march, which they hoped would attract at least 1,000 attendees.

More than 10,000 Nashvillians marched alongside them.

In an interview with Good Morning America, the teens emphasized that the demonstration was peaceful and featured people of all ages, races, and backgrounds, just as they had hoped. Their Instagram account has accrued more than 20,000 followers, and the girls are planning a second march for next month.

Nashville Police to Wear Body Cameras

These protests and calls for action have created real results. In an announcement this week, Mayor Cooper told the public that Nashville will begin to outfit Metro police officers with body-worn cameras.

“Since campaigning for office, I have supported body-worn cameras in Nashville and the need to invest in this vital technology the right way. We are delivering on that commitment today, and we are doing it in a cost responsible way.”

The cameras will be deployed beginning this July in Nashville’s West Precinct, with 86 body-worn cameras and 65 patrol car cams, which will provide additional views of incident response. Currently, the West Precinct is the only location with the IT capabilities to support this new tech; the mayor’s office hopes to update other precincts’ infrastructure as soon as possible. The deadline to implementation? Six months from now.

District Attorney General Glenn Funk praised Mayor Cooper for prioritizing this project, stating, “Body cameras will promote trust and accountability for law enforcement and the people of Nashville… These efforts will lead to a safer Nashville.”

Black Lives Matter Leads to Legislation, Other Changes

Fortunately, there appears to be even more legislation in the works. The George Floyd Act (HB2291) would change the way that officers use (or threaten) to use physical, deadly, and excessive force in the line of duty. The bill includes the ban of chokeholds and requires officers to give a verbal warning before firing a weapon, among other provisions. “We need to enact them not later, but right now. The people are crying out for action and that’s what they should get,” said State Representative Mike Stewart.

There have also been calls for the city follow in the footsteps of Chicago and Boston to hire a chief diversity officer. However, Mayor Cooper has not indicated whether this hire will be made. Citing budgetary concerns due to the tornado and the COVID-19 pandemic, the mayor said, “Everyone recognizes that this budget is not accomplishing what we all went into local government trying to do. Unfortunately, this budget is to get us through… the dramatic loss in revenue.”

Nashville, Get Involved

If you’re looking to get involved with Nashville’s Black Lives Matter movement, there are quite a few ways to do so.

Take to the Streets! Join a peaceful protest whenever you’re able. The girls at Teens4Equality are planning another protest on Independence Day: July 4th. They’ll be providing voter registration, snacks, and water at Bicentennial Capitol Mall Park. There are other gatherings taking place. To learn more about upcoming events…

Stay Updated. Follow Black Lives Matter – Nashville on social media or their website. They will be affiliated with all official acts of peaceful protest, and are a great source of information for local action.

Volunteer Locally. Gideon’s Army is a grassroots organization based in Nashville that seeks to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline through social activism. Their programs address youth violence, policing, and juvenile justice, as well as local problems disproportionately affecting the Black community. This March, they led tornado relief efforts for the North Nashville neighborhood, which saw far less volunteer turnout than Germantown or East Nashville. They have virtual trainings available now – donate today, or join them for a multitude of impactful volunteer opportunities.

Donate to Bail Funds. In this time of historic public demonstration, online fundraising is key. When protestors are arrested, donations to a local bail fund can help demonstrators to go home and plan their defense before trial. The Nashville Community Bail Fund is now accepting donations via PayPal.

Be Mindful of Where You Shop. It’s important to know where your money is going. National and local businesses have taken a stance on Black Lives Matter; after recent racist tweets from owner Jeremy Palmer, the Corner Pub in Green Hills has seen social media backlash, boycotts, and the dissolution of a business partnership. In the complete opposite vein, most local businesses have come out in support of the cause. The Mac Shack, Bryan Lee Weaver (owner of Butcher & Bee), Chopper Tiki, and many others have released statements in support of #BLM. East Nashville favorite Dino’s has also shared a list of Black-owned restaurants to visit. Be intentional of where you’re spending your money during this time.

Educate Yourself on the Issues. Be a better ally by educating yourself on the history of racism in America, along with the issues currently faced by the Black community. This can take the form of reading pivotal works, watching documentaries, and even diversifying your social media feeds. Great Big Story has compiled a helpful guide to this process.

Webconsuls is a full-service digital marketing agency with offices in Nashville, TN and Los Angeles, CA.