Residents demand action on treatment center

Residents who live near the West Coast Detox and Treatment center pleaded with the Huntington Beach City Council on Monday to find a way to stop what they say is an increase of crime in their neighborhood and also prohibit strangers from hanging out just feet away from their doorsteps and a nearby playground.

"You should be all ashamed of yourselves," said resident Elizabeth Gregory. "Are you all going to sit around and wait for something terrible to happen to our children?"

West Coast Detox, a detox facility that provides treatment for alcoholics and drug addicts, is located near Schroeder Elementary School on Yale Circle. The center can serve six patients at a time who spend five to seven days in the detox program before moving on to a rehab center.

Next to West Coast Detox is a sober living home, where another six residents each rent out a bed.

Neighbor David Rooks said he found drug paraphernalia in his backyard in July and finds it difficult to believe the city can't do anything about the problem.

"I'm so disgusted by this," he said.

Another resident said some of the patients at the center have access to medication, which is contrary to what West Coast Detox says it does for addicts.

Don Ramsey, who started West Coast Detox about a year ago after he lost a friend's sister to addiction, said he has listened to residents' concerns and taken many steps to reduce complaints about noise and profanity, and continues to work toward making things easier for the residents.

He is also the owner of the sober living house.

When Ramsey met with residents two weeks ago, he said he was verbally attacked and threatened with a lawsuit.

"There's a lot of discrimination and prejudice going on," Ramsey said. "Everybody has got an ax to grind because we're helping people who are trying to stop drugs and alcohol. They should be pointing fingers at themselves. What are they doing to make this community a better place?"

Ramsey said he is installing a surveillance system Saturday to monitor his patients' activities around the center and in the backyard.

Regarding the drug paraphernalia, Ramsey said one of his patients threw it over the fence because he was afraid it would be found with him and get him kicked out of the detox center.

When it happened, all the patients were immediately drug-tested, he said.

While council members are sympathetic to the residents, there is not much the city can legally do to prevent the center from doing business. Rehabs and sober-living homes are regulated by the state, not cities.

City Attorney Jennifer McGrath said while the city can't prevent it from operating, it can ensure that the law is not being violated.

Councilman Joe Carchio said he got many complaints about the center in recent days and asked staff to find a way to respond to residents' concerns.

"I agree with you," Carchio told the residents. "I don't understand it just the way you don't understand it. Let's reopen this thing. There got to be an answer somewhere. There has to be. Let's see if we can find that for you."

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