The State of California, through its Department of Health Care Services, has filed a complaint against my client, Corriente California. Most of the accusations are so wrong that they would be funny, if this case weren’t so important.
The claim is that Corriente California was operating rehab facilities without a license; if true, this would be a violation of state statute. However, instead of focusing on what Corriente California was doing and establishing that they never had a license to do it, which is all the Department needs to prove to win its case, the Department chose to insert false and irrelevant allegation after false and irrelevant allegation into the Complaint, to no purpose whatsoever except perhaps to scare the judge. Perhaps the Department is concerned that their case isn’t strong enough, and they need to make Corriente sound menacing and dangerous in order to win.
There’s no rule that everything in a complaint must be true or accurate or fair. Most people don’t realize that lawsuits can contain misstatements and even outright lies. In fact, there’s a special phrase for when you really have no idea if something is true or not: “On information and belief.” You don’t even have to use it: guesswork, rumor and belief are all perfectly acceptable in a pleading (i.e. a complaint). It can turn out later that you were wrong. That’s considered fine.
In most cases, exaggerated or false or embarrassing allegations in a complaint aren’t THAT big of a problem, because nobody reads complaints except the defendants themselves. However, for Corriente California, it’s a big problem. Several blogs have already reposted the allegations in the Complaint, and obviously assumed the allegations were true. Now, anyone who googles “Corriente California” can quickly find damaging falsehoods about the program. These can’t go unanswered.
I invite you to read the complaint and our responses.
The Department’s Complaint accuses Corriente California of a lot of things that actually occurred at other facilities, simply by claiming that all the facilities are all magically connected to Corriente. That’s like saying that all fast food restaurants are somehow connected to McDonalds. Sure, McDonalds might have pioneered a concept that’s then copied by others, but that doesn’t mean that it should be blamed if Jack in the Box has a salmonella outbreak.
The worst example of this is where the Department says that Corriente has had 42 deaths in the last several years, based on an article by the LA Coroner that was published in January 2017. In fact, Corriente has had one death in twenty five years. That was a tragic accident where the deceased punched another client, who tackled him in response. The resulting head trauma killed him, and the person responsible is now in jail, awaiting trial for murder. Although it’s a terrible thing, it’s not right to shut down an organization that has helped so many thousands of people and saved so many lives, just because of one horrific, unforeseeable event.
I don’t know what’s been going on at all these other facilities that aren’t affiliated with Corriente California (perhaps all the deaths the Coroner studied happened there) but one death in twenty five years is actually pretty admirable, especially when Corriente has successfully treated at least 15,000 people. That’s not counting the people who’ve come and gone without completing the 90-day program. How many of those 15,000 would be dead today if not for Corriente California? That’s the real question that needs to be asked. An expert assures me that the relevant question is not absolute numbers of deaths, but the comparative rate of death between Corriente, licensed facilities, and addicts who don’t get help at all.. This comparison wasn’t done by the Coroner. The Coroner’s article is simply reported data, without context and without analysis. It would be like reporting that you scored 85% on your chemistry midterm and then a 72% on your final exam, without noting that you had the highest grades in the class, and your final grade was an A. That’s what we call accurate but misleading.
When many people first hear about Corriente’s operations, their initial reaction is “That sounds unsafe.” People feel uncomfortable with the idea of detoxing without a licensed healthcare professional to supervise. Turns out, this concern is unfounded. I’ve spoken with doctors about this – people detox at home all the time, in part because hospitals often won’t take them if all they’re doing is detoxing. What people also don’t realize is that state law consciously allows facilities to provide detox services without a license or any professional staff – as long as the addicts don’t stay there at night. It’s right there in the law – you can read it here: rehab facilities are defined as residential. If they’re not residential, they don’t count and don’t need licenses. If the state law considered detoxing so dangerous that a doctor or nurse needed to be present, a healthcare professional would be required during the day as well. There could be no exemption for daytime services if the process were that dangerous.
The reason Corriente California has had so few deaths in twenty five years is because as soon as there is any sign of trouble or medical distress, they are instructed to (and do) call 911 to get the person help. They are well aware of their limitations. All they can do is talk to people about their experiences and share their stories, and encourage the addicts to open up and reflect on their own choices in life. The model is perfectly safe, and it has been working for twenty five years. Fifteen thousand graduates prove it.
If you think Corriente California should be given a chance to give shelter to recovering addicts, and to prove their effectiveness to the Department, tweet #SaveCorriente at @DHCSDirector. All we want is for the Department to come to the table with us so that we can work out a solution that lets Corriente get a license. People are counting on it.