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

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

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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:

 

THE CANYON

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.


THE CLARE FOUNDATION

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 TREATMENT PROGRAM

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.


CLIFFSIDE MALIBU

“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.


CRI-HELP

Founded in 1971, Cri-Help has 120 beds in North Hollywood. This nonprofit charges $5k a month, but 51 percent of its patients pay nothing. Nada. For this, they receive detox, residential housing, full meals, bilingual services, individual and group counseling, daily 12-step meetings, grief and loss guidance, family support, acupuncture, EEG biofeedback, psychiatric evaluation and treatment for co-recurring disorders. Director Marlene Nadel is a guardian angel. Best 10-day detox in town, say most rock & roll veterans.


HARMONY PLACE

When it opened in 2002, Harmony Place billed itself as “a comfortable place to do difficult work.” It now charges $47,500 for 28 days of that difficult work. According to Director of Admissions Don Grant, they recently switched from coed to all-women and moved out of Malibu into their “tranquil manor” located on “a country-estate property hidden” in Woodland Hills. Good luck finding them. Harmony Place lists Dr. Robert Waldman on staff — plus 27 women. This guy is either the busiest or luckiest doctor in all of Malibu. Possibly both.

(Trivia: Grant was (un)wittingly featured in a piece on The Daily Show shot in the rehab, featuring Samantha Bea pleading with him to help “exhausted celebrities.”)


LAS ENCINAS HOSPITAL REHAB FACILITY

Dr. Drew Pinsky is program medical director of the chemical-dependency unit at Las Encinas Hospital, in Pasadena. Better known as Dr. Drew from his straight talk on MTV and radio’s Loveline, and now fortunately or unfortunately from VH-1’s Celebrity Rehab, Pinsky is one of the nation’s leading experts on addiction. Hospital rehabs require a higher certification from the state of California, and Las Encinas is a place with a great reputation. “We’re where the buck stops,” Pinsky says. The combination of Dr. Drew and Clinical Director Bob Forrest, a recovering addict and former front man for Thelonius Monster, give Las Encinas enormous street cred among the addicted Hollywood rock & roll traveling circus.

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Pinsky, a vigorous supporter of 12-step programs, feels too much emphasis is placed (and too much money is spent) on residential rehabs. “We have some things that make sobriety possible. We help people into sobriety, but nobody makes somebody sober.”


LA VENTANA

This place is for men only, so if you went to Harmony Place and were turned away, this may be the rehab for you, dudes. Looks luxurious. Founded by Steve Zamarripa, a wealthy Southern California businessman, La Ventana opened its doors in September 2007. No Ipods, cell phones or MP3 players are allowed. Tough guys, huh? Patients are urged not to bring books. Not even Iron John by Robert Bly? They say they’ll supply the blankets and sheets, but you’re welcome to bring your favorite pillow. 

 

MALIBU HORIZON

The staff at Malibu Horizon will meet you at the airport. “Can other rehab centers in Los Angeles say the same thing?” Apparently not, or I guess they wouldn’t promote the fact. Specializes in opiate detox and the perk that you can keep your laptop and cell phone while in treatment. Featured on MTV’s I Won’t Love You Death: The Story of Mario and His Mom, Twelve Steps optional.


THE MARSHAK INSTITUTE

The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! Dr. Yakov Marshak, who founded the Marshak Clinic in Moscow in 1997, recently trademarked the so-called Marshak Method, which supposedly uses DNA genetic testing to “target and control biochemical imbalances in the brain.” Yikes. Marshak believes in French food, yoga and counseling. Good luck. He insists he was “invited by Alcoholics Anonymous to join the very first group of Russian professionals to be trained in the United States by [the organization].” Was located near Malibu Canyon Road and PCH, but recent fire damage has forced them to temporarily retreat to another plush pad in the region. 

 

PROMISES TREATMENT CENTER

Promises broken? Founded in 1989 as Malibu’s first luxury rehab, of late, the granddaddy of celeb recovery has been hit with a string of public relations setbacks. With the recent revolving door of fickle celebrities and lawsuits regarding the treatment center’s billing practices, it’s been taking a beating in the press. Promises actually comprises two separate but unequal facilities: the cush celebrity fave in Malibu, which starts at $49k for 30 days; and the lesser-known W. Los Angeles rehab, which goes for a bargain $35k for 90 days. I recently learned that its owner and founder, Richard Rogg, has sold his majority share in the center for more than $30 million to Fraser Healthcare Ventures, a behavioral health-care industry investor. According to sources, Rogg had been quietly shopping the rehab for months, having turned down an offer of $23 million from Castle Harlan, a private equity boutique. Rogg is staying on as director of development while turning over the administrative reins to Dr. David Sack, M.D., from the Aspen Education Group. He practices addiction psychiatry and addiction medicine. Most importantly to area junkies, Sack is licensed to administer Suboxone, the opiate blocker of choice for the nouvea addicté.

All kidding aside though, Promises has helped many people over the years, via its no-nonsense Twelve Step–based recovery program. Deservedly, they still have the best reputation of all the high-end rehabs in Southern California — as a cut above the rest.


RENAISSANCE MALIBU

Offers art therapy, equine-assisted therapy, group therapy, family therapy, adventure therapy, music therapy, somatic/dance therapy, sweat lodge ceremonies, Toltec teachings and now, apparently, the Prometa protocol.

Prometa (as highlighted on 60 Minutes) is a drug cocktail its creator says is the first effective treatment for meth, coke and alcohol addiction. Prometa’s CEO is none other than Terren Peizer, the same guy who partnered up and then flipped to help convict junk-bond trader Michael Milken. Ten years ago he promoted an anti-AIDS vaccine that has yet to see the light of day. Peizer, whose Prometa treatment cost $15k for a one-month supply, has been criticized by the scientific community for not allowing his “miracle cure” to be tested.

“It preys on the needs of desperate patients, sets unreasonable hopes and expectations and takes advantage of scarce economic resources,” says Lori Karan, a top researcher at the Drug Dependence Research Laboratory at the University of California San Francisco.

Peizer has apparently found a local home for his product.

“We are honored to be working with Dr. Sal Petrucci and Renaissance Malibu to offer their patients the Prometa Protocols for alcoholism and stimulant dependence,” exhorts Peizer, chairman and CEO of Hythiam, his L.A.-based health-management company.

Renaissance Malibu recently moved to a much smaller facility. 
 

 

STONE EAGLE RETREAT

Another new kid on the block, Stone Eagle was launched by a former pychotherapist from Passages; it’snice at half the price, for $35k per month. This six-bed, $4.5 million facility sits on 21 acres off Encinal Canyon Road in Malibu. Stone Eagle Retreat offers, among other distractions, horticulture therapy, which you can enjoy while drinking your Prometa cocktail (see Renaissance Malibu) for a discounted $10 grand. Shaken not stirred.

  


VISIONS ADOLESCENT TREATMENT CENTER

Despite Bush Administration claims to the contrary, the numbers for illegal teenage drug use are rapidly rising. In 1979, there were a reported 3.3 million teen illegal-drug users in the country. This number declined to 1.1 million users in 1992. By 2005, it was back up to 2.6 million. So where can kid rock smokers kick? Visions sees it clearly: Its program is designed for 12- to 17-year-old teenage tar tasters, underage hotrailers, curfewed channelswimmers and juvenile jollypoppers — that is, kids with drug and alcohol problems. The fence-enclosed facility is far from public transportation, which is designed to discourage runaways. The place has a pretty good rep and is 12-step-based. Education continues in here, with the patient’s own teachers. Bad news? The kids are always grounded.


WONDERLAND CENTER

Some consider Wonderland, which opened in 2006 with a 350-guest party, as Promises-light. This 12-bed/12 step–based facility costs $40k per month, but at least you’re in Studio City. Much smaller than you’d imagine, with all the hoopla. No drug-prevention security. I visited two celebrity friends/patients there recently, one of whom took me on a tour. I was there for almost an hour before being approached by an employee, who asked me to sign a visitor’s pass. We both laughed. I could have smuggled in a kilo of heroin, for all they knew. Residents are allowed cell phones, iPods, MP3s and computers. Heck, even your pets are welcome — at least, on the weekends. “Wonderland offers a bridge to recovery, which crosses over the notion that life has to be put entirely on hold during treatment.”

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Apparently, patients can leave for the day and go shopping if they wish, but with a companion. Rehab oddity: The Wonderland Web page features in-house articles, such as: “Why Didn’t Barack Obama Go to Rehab?” Good question. Might be less stressful than what he’s going through now.

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


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