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BREAKING NEWS - Staff scrambles to place clients as Southern California facility unexpectedly closes

October 14, 2009
by root
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A Southern California addiction treatment center that in recent months won praise for everything from introducing innovative technology applications to allowing pets to stay with clients was forced to shut operations on Columbus Day. The move, which appeared to take staff completely by surprise, left workers at TouchStone Treatment Centers, Inc. scrambling to find alternative placements for more than a dozen residents, some of whom had just recently made substantial deposits in order to enter extended treatment.

“We’re just trying to take care of the clients and do the best we can,” said a TouchStone employee who answered the telephone at the facility on Oct. 13, the day after a court officer visited the center to serve an eviction notice. “We’re all pretty much in shock here; we’re upset.”

The worker, who asked not to be identified, said some staff members who were aware that they were now “working for free” had stayed behind this week to ensure proper transitional placements for 18 clients in residence at the time of the eviction. Individuals at later stages of treatment were being sent home, while others were being placed in sober-living residences or treatment centers that had agreed to accept the clients at no additional charge, the worker said. The recipient facilities include a center that is scheduled to open for business in a matter of days, the employee said.

The circumstances surrounding TouchStone’s eviction and related problems are sketchy; official court documents in Los Angeles County related to the eviction proceedings are not expected to be available to the public for weeks. But the TouchStone worker said that the company is expected to file for bankruptcy protection soon and that word is “there is no money supposedly now.” TouchStone’s chief administrator is CEO Josh Ulrich.

The employee who answered the telephone at TouchStone said staff members were receiving no guidance from ownership in how to manage the sudden closing. They were trying to determine how to handle details such as safe transport of confidential patient charts. State officials reportedly were contacted this week for guidance.

TouchStone in recent months had invested heavily in technology at its new facility in Sherman Oaks, completing a total integration of electronic health records for clinical record keeping and installing a neurofeedback machine, among other advances. The center was featured on the cover of Addiction Professional’s May/June 2009 issue for allowing pets to accompany their owners into the residential treatment setting, a policy seen by TouchStone administrators as enhancing the therapeutic process.

An attempt to reach TouchStone’s former executive director, Shari Corbitt, PhD, was unsuccessful. Corbitt recently left the organization and this week began working at the Promises treatment organization in California; before leaving she had hired new administrative staff to fill her role.

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