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Martin Sheen Speaks at Treatment Center

November 12, 2000|HOLLY J. WOLCOTT

Hollywood actor and activist Martin Sheen, whose famous son survived a drug and alcohol overdose more than two years ago, came to Ventura County on Saturday to thank the people who help make recovery possible.

Sheen, who gave up drinking more than a decade ago, was one of several speakers at a party hosted by Vista del Mar, a Ventura hospital that treats chemical dependency and behavioral and psychiatric disorders.

"It's a reception for all the different mental health care communities," said Margie Stites, a consultant hired to help organize the event. "It's a way to thank all the agencies and people involved."

Stites said that when Charlie Sheen overdosed in 1998, his father called Earl Hightower, now a Vista del Mar official, for help.

The younger Sheen entered rehab that year after spending two days in detox in a Thousand Oaks hospital.

The elder Sheen, who has appeared in dozens of movies and now plays the president on the television show "The West Wing," described his son's overdose as one of the darkest times in his life, Stites said.

"He said he personally owes his son's life" to drug rehabilitation, Stites said.

More than 300 people crowded into the hospital on Seneca Street to hear the actor speak. The guests included behavior health professionals and government employees who make referrals to such hospitals.

"It's Thanksgiving time and we wanted to thank our community," said Beata Lundeen, director of business development for the hospital.

The Ventura facility, which serves patients from half a dozen counties in Southern California, is owned by Behavioral Healthcare Corp., the second-largest such provider in the country.

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