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Drug Rehab in California: You Own It

You are responsible for yourself in drug rehab.
You are responsible for yourself in drug rehab.

If you’re involved in seeking drug rehab in California, it’s your responsibility to choose a place that follows best practices and develop a trusting relationship with the rehab staff. There’s a bizarre story that has just wrapped up in the news about a man who sought treatment and died. Whether you are seeking inpatient or outpatient treatment, his story drives home the point that you own responsibility for your therapy and recovery.

The man died shortly after checking into the drug rehab center, and the center and four of its employees were charged with murder. However, it was determined the rehab center bore no blame for the man’s death, and charges were dismissed. But the whole story—or as much of it as we know—serves as a cautionary tale for anyone seeking drug rehab in California.

A Very Strange Case

A man named Gary Benefield checked into a residential treatment facility called A Better Tomorrow, in California, back in 2010. Benefield suffered from medical issues that the rehab center was not prepared to handle. The facility, like many centers for drug rehab, was under pressure to accept any client paying cash. So when an intake worker—someone who was trained to conduct sales calls at A Better Tomorrow—went to the Operations Director at that time and asked if they could take in a client who was on oxygen, the answer was yes.

Benefield was an Arizona resident who suffered from lung problems, and he had just been hospitalized with pneumonia. At the time he embraced the idea of going into residential drug rehab, but he had difficulty finding a place that would take him. When A Better Tomorrow said yes, he jumped at the opportunity. He took himself and his oxygen tank out to the airport for transportation to the facility as soon as possible. They promised to meet him at the airport.

When the airline refused to transport him with a full oxygen tank, he had it drained and rode on the plane carrying his empty equipment. No doubt the trip was uncomfortable for him, but when he was met at the San Diego airport, he told the driver from A Better Tomorrow that he did not need to have his oxygen tank refilled immediately. He was just anxious to get situated at the rehab center.

The driver noticed that Benefield not only was wheezing and staggering, he also smelled strongly of alcohol. The driver called his supervisor, who told him to bring Benefield to the facility and then give him two tablets of an anti-anxiety medication. The medication was called Serax and it fell into a category of medications called benzodiazepines. Now, if you’re someone who is in drug rehab or familiar with benzodiazepines, you are probably already savvy enough to know that benzos mix very poorly with alcohol, opiates, or just about any other drug.

So Benefield took his Serax, told everybody he would be fine without his oxygen until the morning, and tumbled into his newly assigned bed. Tragically, as staff made their morning rounds, Benefield was found dead in his bed. He had come to the facility debilitated from pneumonia, with an empty oxygen tank that he made no one aware of, and showed evidence of drinking. A Better Tomorrow, for its part, gave benzodiazepines to a patient who showed evidence of drinking, provided those medications to him without authorization from a physician, and failed to check on him throughout the night. So who is to blame for Benefield’s death? The judge hearing the case dismissed charges because she deemed that nobody at A Better Tomorrow intended for Benefield to die.

Blaming Centers for Alcohol, Opiate & Drug Rehab in California

It’s a puzzling case to fathom for people who don’t know all the inside details. If you’ve ever sought drug rehab in California, you know that benzodiazepines do not mix with alcohol. You know that because you’ve already been told that you cannot take benzos with either alcohol or opiates. All three of those substances depress the respiratory system as well as the central nervous system. Taking any of those three substances in combination constitutes a surefire recipe for disaster leading up to and including death.

A Better Tomorrow, which still displays a webpage, is owned by a parent company, and all of the parent’s rehab facilities have achieved certification by the Commission on Accreditation for Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). CARF does not bestow its certification lightly, and it’s amazing to think that a facility running tight enough to earn that designation would screw up to the maximum degree that it did with Benefield. A little bit of background conducted by staff at Bleecker Street Research revealed that at its dependent facilities, a total of 8 clients have died under questionable circumstances. Yet the courts have not found the parent firm guilty in either criminal or civil court.

Your Responsibility If You’re in Treatment

So what can you do if you seek drug rehab in California and you don’t want to end up like Benefield? It’s important to follow the rules. Those rules are in place at all drug rehab centers in California and throughout the country for the simple reason that they protect people and keep them safe. Additionally, you must communicate honestly and proactively with the center, it’s staff and doctors. If there is a critical piece of information, such as illness or need for specific medical care, such as oxygen, you must be sure they are aware.

At some point, the court decided that the rehab facility had no responsibility for ensuring Benefield’s safety and did not intend for him to die. Who knows why the judge felt that Benefield owned liability for his own death? The lesson is, if you are in drug rehab in California, then be accountable for your own treatment. If you have questions about rules or about how things are managed that don’t seem quite right, then speak up and ask.

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