State Moves to Close HB Detox Center Where OC Man Died

West Coast Detox in Huntington Beach kept illegal drugs in an unlocked attic, a misstep that led to one client's death, investigators say.

The state is moving to shut down a Huntington Beach drug detox center following the death earlier this year of a San Juan Capistrano man, Patch has learned.

Investigators say West Coast Detox Center was at least partly responsible for the death of Jason Redmer, who was found unresponsive in his bedroom at the treatment home April 16. By the time emergency workers arrived, it was too late.

The coroner still hasn't released an autopsy, but the state Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs conducted its own investigation and concluded that certain actions – including the storage of unlocked medications and the staff’s failure to seek medical help when they discovered Redmer had purloined and ingested some of the drugs – “contributed to or caused” his death.  

  • Read Jason Redmer's personal story here.

Based on that and instances involving other former clients, the state moved this month to revoke the license of West Coast Detox, which operates out of a home on Yale Circle in Huntington Beach. Executive Director Don Ramsey is fighting the closure.

During the legal proceedings, West Coast is allowed to remain open and receive clients, said Carol Sloan, a spokeswoman for the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs. A date to hear Ramsey’s defense has not yet been set.

By definition, residential drug or alcohol detoxification treatment centers are nonmedical in nature, wrote an attorney for the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, Millicent Tidwell, in making the state’s case.

In a legal document, Tidwell detailed six reasons why West Coast’s license should be revoked:

  • Failure to destroy former clients’ medication and retention of such medications
  • Repeatedly providing medical services to clients
  • Repeatedly failing to refer clients to an appropriate facility for medical services
  • Repeatedly allowing clients to use medication without prescriptions
  • Failing to provide clients with a safe, clean and healthful environment
  • Failure to refer Redmer for medical services when it was discovered he got into the center’s drug cache

The state's case centers around what West Coast Detox staff called the “dead meds,” drugs removed from clients entering the home, Tidwell wrote.

These drugs should have been destroyed, Tidwell wrote. Instead, they were kept unlocked in the garage attic.

Among them were medications defined by law as controlled substances and “dangerous drugs,” such as Librium, a sedative; Phenobarbital, an anti-seizure medication; sedative Temazapam; and narcotic Buprenorphene, a component of a drug known as Suboxone.  

Redmer’s mom, Lynne Redmer of San Juan Capistrano, dropped her son off April 12 and saw the garage. She said it served as an intake area for new clients and had an area with a hospital bed.

Jason Redmer received Librium, Phenobarbital and Temazapam upon his arrival at West Coast, all without a prescription, Tidwell wrote. He saw a doctor his second day there, after consuming several doses. The doctor turned around and prescribed those same medications.

The state found 13 other clients, going back to December 2011, who received various cocktails of drugs before seeing a physician, who often prescribed the drugs after they'd already been given.

On Redmer’s fourth day at West Coast, staff discovered he had removed several pills and prescription bottles from the "dead meds" supply, Tidwell wrote. Workers were able to ascertain that he took “at least” two orange pills, believed to be Suboxone.

Instead of seeking medical treatment, West Coast staff decided to simply monitor Redmer, Tidwell wrote.

West Coast’s “failure to refer [Redmer] to medical services contributed to or caused decedent’s death,” Tidwell wrote.

Michelle Brydenthal December 21, 2012 at 02:19 AM
What a tragic article - I feel so heart broken for Lynn Redmer. It sounds like her son's death could have been prevented. Also leaving medication unlocked in a detox center and in plain view is negligent (and tempting to those already struggling) to say the least. If I had to vote on what you have presented I would say shut it down.
Kristine Callahan December 21, 2012 at 05:03 AM
Shut it down indeed. Our neighborhood has been asking the government and city officials and law enforcement to assist in holding this facility accountable. The day this man died in our neighborhood was the day we knew we were right...something was rotten. And we were called a people lacking compassion? Shut them down!
Robert Gene Dennis December 21, 2012 at 08:02 PM
What happens to those who could be helped. Without insurance they cannot check into medical detox. They need to be regulated and monitored not shut down.
Chris D. Tittle December 24, 2012 at 01:19 AM
These owners were negligent to say the least. I own and operate an Elder Care home (RCFE). Facilities like these give all of the good ones a bad name. If I was ever found to be that grossly negligent I would be shut down in a heart-beat. The state should shut these poeple down and prosecute to the full extent available. They have violated so many laws before the resident OD'd it was beyond negligence.
Steve Durham January 30, 2013 at 05:04 AM
With 44 million Americans currently without medical insurance, these small detox centers are a reasonably priced alternative for alcoholics and drug addicts and do help many of them find their way to sobriety. We, including the State of California, maybe shouldn't be so hasty to judge this facility prior to the Coroner's report being released. Generally, these facilities are staff with dedicated and caring individuals that have overcome addiction themselves.


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