By The Fix staff 11/19/14

Cri-Help's no-frills approach to recovery boasts strong results and has led to the facility having a great reputation. You won't be getting a high end luxury experience, but if you're ready to work and do what it takes to get sober, this respected Los Angeles facility may be your best bet.

LA's affordable rehab, Cri-Help. Photo via
Location : Los Angeles
Phone : (818) 985-8323
Price : $7,000/mo. (subsidized beds are available); $550/day for detox
Overall :
Accommodations :
Treatment :
Food :
Insurance : Yes
Detox : Yes

California Drug Rehab Center Review

Cri-Help is a full-service, 12-step based treatment facility located in Los Angeles offering, detox, outpatient and residential treatment. The main campus is a 120-bed facility located in North Hollywood. An additional campus in East L.A. caters to the needs of Spanish-speakers and can house up to 78 residents. All residences are gender-specific.

Residential clients usually stay for 30 or 60 days, but can stay longer. Cri-Help is in-network with most major insurance carriers and has longtime working relationships with county and state programs, so treatment is made available to anyone who needs it regardless of one’s ability to pay.

This widely-respected Los Angeles rehab caters to an extremely diverse group of people, “...all ages (18-65) and all genders, including, straight, and bi-sexual,” according to one client.  Another client put it this way, “We were a wide spectrum of individuals, everything from the hard core prison yard gangster to the cookie-baking sweater-knitting grandmother.” Attracting those from all walks of life, from wealthy celebrities to homeless people to those ordered into treatment by the courts, Cri-Help is a place where all are made to feel welcome.

Clients are housed in large, 2 to 3-person rooms with single beds and separate armoires. Most found the roommate experience to be positive. For example, “Whether it was through learning to tolerate others that didn't see things similarly to myself or making friendships that have lasted years, everyone I was roommates with taught me something.” 

Cri-Help stands in stark contrast to the luxury Malibu rehabs several miles away: Chores are a big part of daily life; the facility is spotless and it is the clients who keep it that way. “We had days that we all had to scrub and double”  Opinions on how onerous these chores are vary depending on people’s past experience. But most, like this former client, took it in stride:“For me, this assisted in the formation of my healthy routine I follow still to this day.”

Daily life at Cri-Help is filled with work - physical, emotional and, as part of the 12-step process, spiritual. Wake-up is 6am and most of the day consists of a combination of  house meetings, chores, and several treatment groups, with some leisure time in between. Some of these groups are grief counseling, couples therapy, Step Study, and relapse prevention. Family participation is encouraged, and family therapy is an important part of recovery for many clients: One alum remembers, “It was a big deal for my Mom and sister to come in, and work through our own issues with different family members and counselors.”  Clients also attend individual therapy with their counselors and have ample time for reading, writing and working with their sponsor.

Meals are served cafeteria-style at Cri-Help and, while not gourmet, the food is nutritious and tastes good - “...decent institutional food prepared with love.” There is a salad bar and fresh fruits and vegetables are served with each meal. Accommodations are made, when possible, for those with specific dietary needs. Coffee and snacks (including sweets) are available throughout the day.

Evenings at Cri-Help consist mostly of attending outside AA and/or NA meetings. These meetings are a cornerstone of Cri-Help’s treatment program because they help to integrate clients into the recovery community at large. Graduates re-enter society already having a support network in place, including a sponsor, sober friends and a home group.

While Cri-Help clients spend a great deal of time actively working on their recovery, there are plenty of activities to enjoy during leisure time. There is a track, basketball and volleyball court, and a gym. Yoga, acupuncture and biofeedback are offered.  There is a pool table and a ping-pong table as well as an area where clients can play cards or watch TV during free time on weekends and after evening meetings during the week.

On weekends, Cri-Help clients are taken on frequent outings which are proposed by the client counsel (oh yeah, there’s a client counsel). Past outings have included movies, concerts and plays as well as frequent trips to the beach during summer AND, because this is LA, tapings of TV shows!

Rules at Cri-Help are very clear as is the protocol for violations. And while there are cases of favoritism (real or perceived), most staff are seen, in the words of one grad,  “...fair, loving and strict.” First offenses for minor infractions usually result in a warning. Common examples are being late for group or violating “Non-com” (fraternizing with opposite sex) rules (“Two dead batteries can’t make a spark”).  

Subsequent infractions can result in writing assignments or additional chores (at 5am). Expulsion is reserved for serious or chronic infractions. But for those willing to do the work, staff will do whatever possible to shepherd even the most wayward of sheep. In the words of one former hard case, ”The staff never gave up on me.”

Cri-Help’s multi-phased system for granting its clients privileges and greater autonomy is designed to “phase” them out of treatment and into society.“Cri-Help will cater the necessary treatment to your ultimate success,” explains one former resident.  Because some clients are business-owners or CEO’s and others are homeless or recently released from prison, phases are determined by staff on a case-by-case basis. Privileges range from having visitors to supervised and unsupervised passes, depending on the phase. By the time an individual reaches Phase 4 (out of 5), they are expected to be looking for work and will have significantly more privileges. Clients who do not follow the guidelines (not checking in while on a pass, for example) can expect to be phased down.

Cri-Help provides clients with access to whatever medical care they need. An MD visits the detox every day and transportation is provided to all outside doctor’s appointments.  One client shared, “I felt that anyone who needed medical care received the care they needed promptly.”

Cri-Help is not a religious program. One of Cri-Help’s graduates describes their program this way, “The program was heavily 12-step oriented with some alternative modalities integrated into the treatment (e.g., cognitive therapy, group process, mindfulness/meditation).” Spirituality, however, is part of the 12-step process. Transportation is provided for those who wish to attend off-site bible study or church. That being said, they do celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas in typical secular American fashion.

One pretty cool thing about Cri-Help: After you graduate, you can request a PC card (short for “Privilege Card”...card). PC cardholders can return to Cri-Help to take current clients (Phase 2 and above) to meetings or on approved day-passes. It is one of the many ways Cri-Help clients become rooted in the community in a way that benefits both the alumni and the community.

Cri-Hope alumni speak of their alma mater in the highest regard.  “I would suggest this place for my kids or parents if they had problems with addiction or alcoholism. I trust them.”

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