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Radio's Dr. Drew defends Pasadena mental hospital

It's 'excellent,' the celebrity doctor says of the Pasadena facility where three patients died unexpectedly.

August 22, 2008|Rong-Gong Lin II | Times Staff Writer

Celebrity physician Drew Pinsky on Thursday defended a Pasadena psychiatric hospital that has come under scrutiny for the unexpected deaths of three patients and the rape of a teenage girl in the last five months.

"It's an excellent hospital," said Pinsky, the co-medical director of the chemical dependency program at Aurora Las Encinas Hospital, a favorite of Hollywood celebrities.

State health inspectors have investigated and faulted the hospital's care in the first two deaths, which occurred within two days in April. The patients, who were being treated for drug abuse in the chemical dependency unit, both died of apparent drug overdoses, according to county and state records. The third death, a suicide, and the rape occurred elsewhere at the facility.

Pinsky co-hosts the syndicated radio show "Loveline" and anchors a reality TV series on VH1 that follows celebrity patients in rehab.

Pinsky was responding to comments made Thursday by Arline Clyburn, whose son was found dead on the floor of his room in the chemical dependency unit April 14.

Arline Clyburn said Pinsky shares some of the blame for her son's death.

"When they assume positions of leadership, that's their responsibility -- to make sure the level of care is medically appropriate, safe and competent," said Clyburn, a registered nurse.

Pinsky said repeatedly that that he was not a doctor in any of the reported cases.

He also expressed sympathy for the families of the patients who died.

"My heart is broken about these cases," Pinsky said.

He said his position as the co-director of the chemical dependency program does not mean he can be held responsible for the care given by other doctors, nurses or healthcare workers.

"I'm not being investigated for anything," he said.

Alex Clyburn had entered the facility after taking large doses of OxyContin and Xanax. A state investigation found that a mental health worker did not check on Clyburn every 15 minutes as ordered; the worker was subsequently fired.

Arline Clyburn said she and her husband, Ronald, took their son to the facility not only because of professional recommendations but also because of Pinsky's TV show, "Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew."

Alex "showed it to us and said, 'Look, he's so successful,' " said Arline Clyburn, whose family is planning to sue the hospital. "He has a reputation of being the expert in his field. And we figured if he was an expert, he would direct the care of his program to be competent."

Pinsky said Thursday, "It's not my hospital," adding that he thought it was a "bizarre misconception" that people associated him with Las Encinas.

"We make a point of not promoting the fact . . . that we work there," Pinsky said.

When told that he is the only physician with a photo on Las Encinas' website home page, Pinsky said he was unaware of that. Pinsky's affiliation with the chemical dependency unit of Las Encinas is also advertised on VH1's website.

--

ron.lin@latimes.com

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