Hundreds of Patients Dying in California Rehab Centers

Last Updated: May 31, 2023

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Local news investigators in California recently found that hundreds of people have died as a result of provider neglect or inadequate operations in drug and alcohol detox centers. Vulnerable individuals seeking recovery from addiction are being mistreated or untreated with lethal consequences. Families of the deceased are demanding action.

Establishing Standards for Client Care

Standards for care in drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers across California vary and can be inadequate. The state of California recognizes this issue and is taking strides to provide better oversight for these facilities. A Senate bill approved in September 2018 includes guidelines for drug and alcohol treatment facilities. Under this legislation, facilities will have to adhere to the American Society of Addiction Medicine criteria for treatment or a similar, evidence-based standard of care.

Licensing depends on compliance with these standards, including having:

  • Providers who are board certified in addiction medicine or psychiatry
  • Physician oversight of medicine and treatment plans
  • Standards for outpatient treatment
  • Screening and triage procedures
  • Standards for assessments and treatment processes

Legislators and community leaders are hopeful that enacting this measure will increase accountability and ensure best practices in rehabilitation centers statewide.

Drug Addiction and Rehabilitation in California

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2017, 1,169 California residents died from opioid overdoses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rate California as a state with one of the highest increases in drug overdose deaths between 2016 and 2017. Prescription and illicit drugs are accessible and pervasive in communities throughout California.

There are numerous drug and alcohol treatment centers in the state of California to address the issues of addiction. Agencies such as the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America have state branches that serve California’s many communities. However, prevention is only part of the picture.

Addiction treatment in a rehabilitation facility, like The Recovery Village Ridgefield, is a helpful option for people who struggle with substance use disorders. Enrolling in treatment at an accredited rehab facility is a powerful step toward long-term recovery. In light of the fatalities at some California rehab centers, it is more important than ever that the state assesses and provides accountability for the level of care being provided.

California Laws for Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Centers

In addition to new legislation, many laws are currently in place that govern California’s drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers. These laws are meant to ensure the safety and wellness of people seeking care at treatment facilities.

The California Department of Health Care Services has a Substance Use Disorder Compliance Division. This division of the department provides oversight for various aspects of drug and alcohol addiction recovery treatment, including:

  • Expanded access to residents with Medicaid
  • Opioid abuse prevention and treatment
  • Provider resources
  • Complaint investigations
  • Licensing
  • Certification
  • Narcotics program training

The scope of oversight is limited by infrastructure and enforcement challenges in the state. Nefarious care providers or even untrained persons have engineered rehab situations that purposefully avoid intended oversight and accountability. Ill-equipped staff who don’t comply to standards may work for a significant length of time before they are caught and subject to justice. These and a variety of other factors contribute to the crisis of inadequate care in California drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers.

The future of drug and alcohol addiction recovery will include well-equipped facilities with qualified care providers. As enforcement catches up to legislation, the state will see beneficial changes in the services it provides to residents who struggle with addiction issues.

If you or someone you love needs addiction treatment, The Recovery Village Ridgefield is an accredited rehab center that provides comprehensive treatment for substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health conditions. Call today to learn more about treatment.


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    American Society of Addiction Medicine. “Public Policy Statement on Treatment for Alcohol and Other Drug Addiction.” Revised January 2010. Accessed July 2, 2019.

    California Department of Education. “Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention.” N.D. Accessed July 2, 2019.

    California Department of Health Care Services. “Substance Use Disorder Compliance Division.” N.D. Accessed July 2, 2019.

    California Legislative Information. “SB-823 Alcohol and drug treatment abuse recovery and treatment facilities.” Published on September 26, 2018. Accessed July 2, 2019.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Drug Overdose Deaths.” Published in 2018. Accessed July 2, 2019.

    National Institute on Drug Abuse. “California Opioid Summary Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths.” Revised March 2019. Accessed July 2, 2019.