The notorious SLIC (Sober Live-In Center) Ranch drug and alcohol abuse rehabilitation program has reopened in Escondido, but this time with the promise that it would not have any ties to its controversial founder, anti-drug guru Bob Meehan.
The program operates out of the same ranch house that Meehan’s organization used on Quail Ridge Road in the southeastern part of Escondido before being closed by state licensing officials 12 months ago.
The program’s director is Jody Fletcher, who previously helped manage the SLIC Ranch under Meehan’s ownership.
The revived program was licensed Dec. 18 by the state Department of Health Services to serve up to eight persons 18 or older, said Tom Hersant, director of its San Diego licensing office.
The license was issued, Hersant said, only after he was given a “solemn declaration” by the new owner that Meehan will not have any contact with the ranch, either as an administrator, consultant or therapist.
The general manager of the ranch said, however, that members of the staff have maintained contact with Meehan.
Meehan, who maintains an office in San Diego and reportedly spends time on the road as a lecturer and to promote his book, “Beyond the Yellow Brick Road,” is a self-professed former drug user who built a reputation, first in Texas and later in California, for helping drug users go straight by counseling them on how they could have more fun being sober under his wing.
That philosophy backfired on Meehan last year when a handful of former participants in a SLIC-spawned auxiliary support group, called Freeway, alleged that while they succeeded in getting off drugs, they in turn became psychologically dependent on Meehan, the program counselors and their peers for support in staying sober, thereby making the program cultlike.
Some former members of Meehan’s programs said they were encouraged by SLIC and Freeway counselors to replace drugs with a life of chain-smoking, vulgarity, lying to parents and “fun felonies"--Meehan’s description of teen-age pranks which ranged from bashing rural mail boxes to joy-riding to vandalizing restaurants.
Meehan’s supporters, however, claimed that SLIC’s and Freeway’s therapy was the best cure they had found for getting their children off drugs and alcohol, and that though some of the treatment was questionable, it was better than continued substance abuse.
The resulting bad publicity surrounding the Freeway operation forced its community-based board of directors to close the program because of subsequent fund-raising difficulties.
And the SLIC Ranch program itself folded about the same time because of Meehan’s refusal to apply for a residential care facility license, as required by the state. He contended that the participants of his program, including juveniles as young as 12, merely resided at the SLIC Ranch house and received actual drug abuse therapy at a separate outpatient clinic in an Escondido office. State officials disagreed with Meehan’s contention and ordered the SLIC Ranch program closed last spring.
Last July, Meehan sold both the ranch-style house in Escondido that was headquarters for his SLIC program, and the name SLIC itself, to John L. Felker, said Grantham Perry, general manager of the reopened facility.
SLIC continues to use Meehan’s anti-drug therapy and methodology, Perry said Friday.
He said that despite the notoriety surrounding Meehan and his SLIC program, “We felt the name identification in the long run was positive because the methodology is one that works.”
The treatment plan, he said, focuses on group and individual therapy and is free of methadone or other pharmaceutical assistance for the purpose of detoxification.
He said about half of the home’s eight beds are filled on any given day and that most patients receive a 30-day therapy program before leaving. He declined to reveal the cost of treatment, but under Meehan’s old program, a 30-day therapy program with room and board cost about $5,000.
The house is maintained around the clock by a staff operating on three shifts, Perry said.
Felker, who could not be reached for comment Sunday, was described by Perry as a retired career Navy officer.
In a letter to state licensing officials, Perry wrote, “Mr. Meehan has no administrative or supervisory ties to our organization and will not be involved in the management of the ranch at any level. In my conversations with Mr. Meehan, we have reached an oral agreement in which he has stated that he will not visit the facility premises. Mr. Meehan now maintains a business office in San Diego to which we refer his telephone calls and correspondence. We at SLIC Ranch do not anticipate further professional contact with Mr. Meehan.”
However, a secretary at Meehan’s San Diego office, which he shares with his attorney, Bill McCarty, referred calls for Meehan to a woman whose telephone number was that of SLIC Ranch in Escondido.
Perry said he could not explain why the SLIC phone number was being given by Meehan’s San Diego office; the woman in question worked at the ranch. Hersant said state investigators would look into the matter next week.
The secretary later called back to say that she was mistaken in giving out the SLIC Ranch telephone number and had been confused because the woman she identified as Meehan’s North County contact had occassionally worked in Meehan’s San Diego office.
Grantham said that though Meehan has no connection to SLIC, “we’re still using his methodology and a lot of people who work here keep in contact with him.”