Twenty-three-year-old Cody Arbuckle’s mother says her son’s stay at a Solutions Recovery residential treatment facility in Las Vegas cost him his life. The 15-day stay may have cost Arbuckle’s insurance company more than $47,000 in services billed by Solutions
Arbuckle died in July 2017 from loperamide toxicity, according to the Clark County Coroner. Loperamide is an ingredient in Imodium, an over-the-counter diarrhea medication. Taken in extreme doses, the drug can produce an opiate-like high, experts say. Solutions and other facilities owned by American Addiction Centers tout the drug’s therapeutic benefits and warn of its dangers on their websites.
But a former employee says Solutions did nothing to keep the drug away from clients, despite the known risks. And she says Solutions was focused on saving money, not lives.
“The Imodium was kept in a drawer with other over the counter medications, next to the clients’ toiletries,” says former Solutions house manager Natalia Lapina. “Clients had access to all they wanted.”
Arbuckle’s mother, Kathy Deem, is suing Solutions and AAC for wrongful death.
Solutions bills itself as a Las Vegas rehab with “luxury amenities.” The company owns a number of homes throughout the valley where as many as ten clients per home receive in-patient treatment, generally for a month at a time. The Current has chronicled conditions at the homes as reported by state inspectors.
That price tag of more than $3,300 a day buys recovering addicts group therapy sessions during the day, conducted by interns according to Lapina, not licensed professionals. At night, clients are transported in vans to free 12-step program meetings throughout the valley.
“Mental health counseling, which most of their addiction clients need, would cut into profits, so they rely on Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous because they are free,” says Lapina, who detailed the daily routine of Solutions’ clients. “They even buy generic cola, not even Coke. Everything is about saving money.”
Lapina has received the green light from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to sue Solutions and its parent company, American Addiction Centers. She’s filed a claim in federal court for employment discrimination.
Lapina’s tenure at Solutions was brief, from March 2016 to January 2017.
“I was afraid to quit out of fear people would start dying,” she told the Current. “I would ask management to fix medical prescription errors and they’d demote me. They told me I was practicing beyond my scope. They’d send me to the detox house and have me mop floors and clean up feces. I had the highest level of education and I was mopping floors because I opened my mouth.”
Lapina, who is now a licensed drug and alcohol counselor, says the vast majority of house managers are former clients who have little to no training and are paid just above minimum wage.
“The house managers have traded one drug for another — power. They bully people. I was asked by clients to protect them from house managers,” she says.
“I saw a client crawling on the floor. The house manager with a high school diploma gave him the wrong medication. I was told to give a client 300 mg of Wellbutrin. The client would have died. I got an email from management saying ‘thank you.’ Nothing more.”
Solutions executive Dave Marlon told the Current last month that Solutions has 15 psychiatrists in addition to its staff doctor, a geriatric psychiatrist.
“Fifteen psychiatrists. Are you kidding?” asks Lapina. “They gave the same Ziploc bag of pills to everyone. I know because I’ve seen the orders. They wanted to “zombify” them so they can continue to bill. These poor parents want to save their kids. They’ll spend anything.”
The Current asked Solutions to provide the names of the psychiatrists but its parent company, AAC, declined to respond to our questions and requests for information, citing a policy of not discussing patient care. Many of the Current’s questions were not about patient care but rather process.
Lapina says she was treated so poorly she was eventually forced to leave. When she asked to be paid her accumulated paid time off, she was told she was not entitled to it because she quit and did not give two weeks notice.
But Solutions’ parent company, American Addiction Centers, offered to pay Lapina if she’d sign a separation document agreeing not to disparage the company or take any legal or whistleblower actions. Lapina, who says she was constructively discharged, meaning forced to quit, declined AAC’s offer.