Deaths are considered relatively uncommon at rehab and psychiatric facilities. Investigators found multiple deficiencies at a Pasadena facility that is causing some alarm.
Alex Clyburn, a 23-year-old university student, became addicted to painkillers after a car accident. His family thought that Aurora Las Encinas Hospital in Pasadena was the best place for his rehab. However, now, his mother says it was a deadly mistake.
"He was admitted ... We left him at 10 at night. He was dead, stiff, rigid and unresponsive at 7:15 in the morning," said Arline Clyburn, Alex's mother.
Clyburn is more than a concerned mother. She is a former clinical nurse coordinator at UCLA's Neuropsychiatric Institute. She spoke to Eyewitness News with her attorney on Thursday. Clyburn says a Las Encinas staff member assured her that Alex would be closely monitored. However, there were signs that he died long before anyone at the hospital noticed.
"He was cold, rigid, stiff ... liver mortis and rigor mortis at 7:15 in the morning. That means several hours went by," said Clybrun.
The death is one of four incidents investigated by the State Department of Public Health in five months.
The day before Clyburn's death, another young man obtained another patient's medication and overdosed.
This August, a patient hanged himself. In addition, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times, a 14-year-old patient was raped by another 16-year-old patient.
The facility touts that celebrity physician Dr. Drew Pinsky is on its staff. Pinsky is a radio show host and anchor of a VH1 series on celebrity rehab. Pinsky's patient list includes actor Gary Busey, stripper and onetime candidate for governor Mary Carey, and actors Daniel Baldwin and Jeff Conaway.
In a written statement Pinsky says:
"I had no direct knowledge and no direct participation in the recent care of the patients in question."
According to the hospital's Web site, Pinsky is one of 11 co-directors. The hospital is restricted from comment because of patient confidentiality laws.
Arline Clyburn has notified the hospital that she plans on filing a lawsuit.
If you have a question about a rehab facility, or any hospital, you can check out complaints at the Department of Public Health.