http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/09/02/us-usa-rehab-phoenixhouse-specialreport-idUSKCN0R21PY20150902

(9/2/2015) Special Report: Renowned U.S. drug-rehab program spun out of control

Martin Szczupak had already been in and out of rehab when, for a misdemeanor possession charge, a judge sent the 21-year-old heroin addict to a century-old estate in the wooded hills of upstate New York for another chance to clean up…

By December 2012, he had given up on the treatment program. He felt he would be stuck going from “dead end job and rehab and jail until I eventually drop dead,” he wrote in a letter to his fiancée. “You deserve better than that.” He didn’t want to use drugs anymore, he wrote, “but realistically the odds are against me.”

Szczupak never sent the letter. Three weeks later, he walked out of Belle Terre without permission. One day after that, police visited Szczupak’s mother, Inez, at her Staten Island home to tell her that her son had been found dead from a drug overdose…

In 2012, the U.S. criminal justice system sent 580,000 people to drug treatment…

At Belle Terre, criminal-justice referrals account for the majority of residents. The facility is run by Phoenix Houses of New York, whose parent foundation is one of the nation’s largest drug treatment nonprofits, operating in 10 states and the District of Columbia. In the year ended June 20, 2014, the Phoenix House Foundation and its affiliates reported operating revenue of $141 million.

Phoenix Houses of New York is 95 percent publicly funded and enjoys star-studded endorsements. Beyonce donated a cosmetology center at a Brooklyn facility. Financier Pete Peterson chaired a summer fundraiser in 2013 in the posh Hamptons on New York’s Long Island…

The closures that preceded Szczupak’s arrival weren’t the last. And nor is Belle Terre an anomaly. In November last year, OASAS suspended admissions to Belle Terre and four other Phoenix Houses of New York facilities. In a letter to Phoenix House’s then-chief executive in November 2014, OASAS said Phoenix House had “persistent regulatory violations and resident/patient care concerns dating back several years.”

An OASAS site report on the five facilities went into graphic detail. The regulator’s findings at some or all of the facilities included use of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other illegal drugs; sexual activity among residents; reports of violence and sexual assault; insufficient, inadequately trained or abusive staff; dirty premises; and lax security, with residents coming and going as they wished…

In November 2014, regulators again suspended admissions at Belle Terre, as well as four other Phoenix House facilities. State regulators noted high staff turnover and need for improved clinical practices at Belle Terre. They also warned the facility to let clients speak to their attorneys without staff present.

OASAS let Belle Terre reopen in January 2015. Three of the other centers were reopened with limited admissions in late 2014 and early 2015. The Shrub Oak teen residential treatment facility was closed permanently in June 2015.

In March, OASAS inspected Belle Terre again, prompted by unspecified complaints against director Alan Hargrove, OASAS reported. Phoenix House then fired Hargrove, based on OASAS’s feedback.

Hargrove declined to comment.

Phoenix House announced on Aug. 19 it would be closing Belle Terre and the 185th Street facility…

Perhaps Mr. Kolodny should attend to his own affairs, instead of fighting the war against pain patients.

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