Rehab or Bust: A Guide to L.A.'s Drug and Alcohol Treatment Centers 

Wednesday, Jun 25 2008

A word of advice to you L.A. celebs: Stop driving! When was the last time you heard of a NYC-based celebrity being arrested for a DUI? Tracy Morgan? Well, there’s an exception to every rule, and besides he was arrested here too.

Kevin Scanlon

(Click to enlarge)

click to enlarge KEVIN SCANLON

Any luxury rehabs in NYC? No. You know why? Celebrities don’t drive in Manahattan! They take limos and cabs, which is what L.A. celebs should do so they don’t scare the living shit out of us by driving the wrong way on the 134 West, nodding on Vicodin and codeine at 3 a.m. after leaving Teddy’s.

They all end up in court, most end up in lush rehabs, and some in the pokey. Of the three choices, the last is the harshest. Which is why Proposition 36 (the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act) made sense: These offenders needed help, not incarceration. They also needed a nice place to stay ... to seek treatment.

Also read Addiction: Buying the Cure at Passages Malibu and Going Undercover at Impact House by Mark Groubert

That explains the increased need for luxury rehabs, which, in some cases, judges allow as time served. Indeed, when Prop 36 was passed in 2000, lawmakers with good intentions realized that numerous treatment facilities would be needed immediately to enable the state to handle the flow of drug cases from the courts. Debate transcripts from Sacramento indicate that the licensing procedures and requirements were left intentionally weak. These loopholes have been exploited by luxury rehabs, which use easily attainable multiple licenses to overcome “6-beds-per-residence” restrictions, weak license enforcement to advertise medical doctors on staff, and lack of enforcement by the state to regulate outlandish medical claims.

In Malibu today, it’s harder to open a bagel shop than a residential treatment facility. Lax regulations, easy licensing and an unregulated market have led to their speedy increase and, by consequence, their abuses. That said, L.A. is also home to a wide variety of legitimate care and treatment centers. In this package we profile the most luxurious rehab, Passages Malibu, and the toughest, Impact, in Pasadena. Here’s a look at the rest:



Opened in June 2004, the Canyon at Peace Park sits on 240 acres in Malibu. Its claim to fame is that the Dali Lama once visited. Founded by Michael Cartwright and Melrose clothing maven Fred Segal (he owns the land), staff includes doctor-to-the-stars Dr. Robert Waldman. A 12-step facility with Buddhist, Zen and Toltec leanings, this 12-bed center also has its own standup comic, Mark Lundholm, whose Humor in Treatment operates for four hours on Mondays. That, my friends, is a long set.


Growing out of the hippie-esque Venice Free Clinicin 1968, Clare was originally intended for homeless beach drunks. In 1970, they rented a storefront on Pico and offered sleeping space, detox and a food program. Today, Clare runs 11 programs on the Westside, including a residential treatment center, sober living for men and women with children, outpatient services, detox and a drunk-driving program — all 12-step based. This amazing operation runs on the minuscule annual budget of $5 million, and may be the best overall drug-treatment program in Los Angeles. Half-privately raised, half-publicly funded, the nonprofit Clare is headed up by the idealistic Nicholas Vrataric, who should be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Oh, and did I mention, it’s free to the indigent?


Clearview claims its “program is centrally located in Los Angeles, close to both nightlife and the Pacific Ocean, with easy access to several major freeways... numerous beaches, restaurants, movies and shopping.” Is this a drug rehab or a youth hostel? The ubiquitous Dr. Robert Waldman is on staff, so it must be happening. Still, a bargain at $28K per month.


“This is an anonymous program,” says an annoyed man named Lou, who answers the phone at Cliffside Malibu, a place that charges $62,500 per month — for what, I’m trying to learn.

“What is an anonymous program?” I ask.

“This rehab,” Lou says.

“Well your Web site is not anonymous. It has photos, full names and titles of everyone who works there,” I explain.

“We don’t want any publicity,” says the now-stammering Lou.

“Well, how do you get clients then?”

“I’d rather not say.”

After repeated e-mails and calls, I never did learn why CliffsideMalibu charges $62,500 per month. I do learn they have Dr. Robert Waldman on staff, so they must be major-league players.

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