Newport Beach Rehab Disputes Bad Press

By Hunter R. Slaton 05/03/12

Morningside Recovery claims the OC Register mischaracterized the terms of its license suspension.

The offices of Morningside Recovery LLC.
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On Feb. 29, following an article in the OC Register newspaper, The Fix wrote about how a Southern California rehab called Morningside Recovery was evidently thumbing its nose at the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, by remaining open in defiance of a shut-down order. But after receiving an email disputing certain elements of the account from Brandon Hilger, Morningside’s Director of Admissions and Marketing, The Fix looked into the matter, and found that the OC Register story wasn’t entirely accurate—although it wasn’t entirely wrong, either.

Hilger wrote that Morningside “has been in a rather constant battle over the last several years with the city of Newport Beach … based on pressure from a group of wealthy and powerful residents that have taken up a NIMBY [“not in my backyard”] issue with our providing services in their city.” In particular, Hilger disputed the claim made to the newspaper by Calif. Dept. of Alcohol and Drug Programs Spokeswoman Suzi Rupp that “[Morningside] are not supposed to be doing anything at all.” Actually, Hilger said, “The November 2011 order from the California ADP did suspend our license to provide residential treatment and detoxification at three locations in Costa Mesa”—but not the rehab’s clinical facility or its sober-living residences. “As such, Morningside has continued to operate as we always have, sans detoxification treatment.”

When The Fix contacted Rupp to get the Calif. Dept. of ADP’s side of the story, she confirmed that her quote was taken out of context by the OC Register. “When [newspaper writer John Cassidy] quoted me, I did say that—but I was referring to residential facilities.” Rupp confirmed that Morningside currently has a valid certificate to treat outpatients with drug counseling and rehab services—but not with medicine.

As part of a correction that was appended to the original OC Register story on March 19, a statement from Morningside CEO Mary Helen Beatificato said that while the rehab “no longer provides residential treatment services … clients live in the company's sober living homes and receive daily clinical services at Morningside's clinical building in Costa Mesa.” When asked about this practice—shuttling clients from their sober-living homes to daily outpatient treatment—Rupp told The Fix that Morningside shouldn't be doing it, as it dodges the lawful restrictions placed upon them to suspend inpatient services.

The dispute will be settled soon enough, as Morningside is scheduled for a May 21 hearing that will determine whether or not its suspended license to provide residential treatment should be revoked entirely. “Somebody is doing something about it,” said Rupp, in reference to Beatificato’s claim to the OC Register that, if they had been ordered to shut down, “somebody would be doing something about it.” She adds, “The department is moving forward to revoke the license, and there are additional investigations open."

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Hunter Slaton is the esports managing editor for Blizzard Entertainment. You can find hunter on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.