Tag Archives: drug rehabilitation

Calif. adopts strict rehab rules for medical workers

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

ProPublica reporters Tracy Weber and Charles Ornstein have filed a report (Los Angeles Times version, ProPublica version) on the fallout from their work exposing failures in California’s nurse rehab program.

The state has adopted strict new rules governing drug abusers in the health care industry, requiring that those in the rehab program be tested more than 100 times in the first year, and pulling them from practice immediately should a relapse be detected.

In addition, public Web sites will now list any restrictions to their licenses, “easing the long-standing confidentiality protections that have shielded participants and kept their patients in the dark.”

Media guide focuses on drug abuse, addiction

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has released a 27-page media guide condensing up-to-date facts, figures and research on drug abuse and addiction. Get the full PDF here.

The guide is intended to help reporters understand why drug addiction occurs and how it is manifested, which drugs are abused, who abuses them and how they can be dangerous. It also includes a glossary and directions to further resources.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse is part of the National Institutes of Health, which in turn is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Calif. nurse rehab program full of holes

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

ProPublica’s Tracy Weber and Charles Ornstein follow up their investigation of California’s nursing oversight with a story about the failures of the state’s nurse rehab program (Los Angeles Times version; ProPublica version). The embattled California Board of Registered Nursing has touted the program as a safe haven where otherwise good nurses can free themselves of bad habits, but Weber and Ornstein have discovered that nurses often don’t complete the program, and sometimes continue bad behavior unabated despite the voluntary, confidential program’s required drug tests and treatment.

The team has reinforced its data-driven story with well-chosen anecdotes and observations. Program proponents argue that Weber and Ornstein are focusing on a few failures and ignoring the more numerous success stories, but the reporters show that the failures are due, at least in part, to flaws in the program. Even nurses designated as a “public risk” often aren’t investigated until more than year after earning that dubious distinction.

The reporters’ sum up the problem thus: “At the moment, the main person responsible for protecting the public from a drug-addicted nurse in California is the drug-addicted nurse. It’s a risky honor system.”

Calif. nonprofit’s conflicts of interest ‘inherent’

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Los Angeles Times reporter Alan Zarembo found unusually high executive pay and a tangle of additional compensation (ranging from rent to legal fees) that make executives at Tarzana Treatment Center some of the best-paid nonprofit leaders around.

The $45-million-a-year business, which has aggressively pursued lucrative government contracts, paid out salaries as high as $428,057 for the chief operating officer, a number which does not take into account deferred compensation and other activities. Part of the property leased by the center is owned by four board members, in an arrangement which nets them $2.7 million in rental fees annually. The CEO earned $330,372 for 32 hours a work a week, not including his share of the rent or the $237,965 in legal fees he earned in 2007 as part of an ongoing contract.

Frances Hill, a professor at the University of Miami specializing in nonprofit tax law, said conflicts of interest were inherent at Tarzana because the chief executive wears so many other hats: chairman of the board, lawyer and landlord.

“My jaw is dropping over this,” she said.

All of this appears to be legal, though “anathema” to a nonprofit’s mission, Zaremba found. The IRS allows this sort of self-dealing as long as the nonprofit can show that it gets better rates than it would on the open market, and government caps on executive pay for its contractors don’t apply because much of the compensation comes from non-government revenues. The leader of a nonprofit watchdog group asks “If the executives weren’t paid so much, ‘how many more services could be provided to people who need them?'”

Numbers on the rehab center’s effectiveness remain elusive, as they do for many such organizations, but Zaremba quotes a patient praising its professionalism and a positive review from a local official.