A California jury has awarded the biggest verdict to date against a controversial drug treatment company that also operates a facility in the Tampa Bay area.
The I-Team has been reporting for weeks about problems with the center the company operates here.
Now an attorney is speaking out about the death and the message he hopes it sends.
“They were negligent in how they marketed and brought people in,” said attorney Jude Basile. “These people took calls from their mass marketing program and were paid a commission and had sales quotas.’
Basile represents the family of Shaun Reyna, who committed suicide in a California rehab operated by American Addiction Centers.
“He was only in there 20 hours. He was delusional. He was hallucinating. And they put him alone in a room with razor blades,” Basile said.
In a civil complaint, Basile alleged, “American Addiction Centers pressured sales people to sell by any means possible and fired them if they failed to meet sales quotas.”
Reyna suffered from depression and began using prescribed medication and drinking heavily.
He sought treatment at American Addiction Centers, Inc. and was transported 360 miles to be admitted to an addiction treatment center.
The company confiscated his cell phone, wallet and other personal items.
While in AAC’s care, the complaint alleges he never saw a doctor, never saw a psychiatrist and was never prescribed a medical taper for his withdrawal symptoms.
He was also reported by staff to be delusional and have active symptoms of delirium tremens.
While he was alone in his room, Reyna cut himself multiple times with his razor and bled out.
The jury awarded $7 Million dollars to Reyna's family after determining AAC violated regulations.
“It sends a message that you can't put financial greed over personal safety. Particularly when the people you're marketing to are often at the lowest point, the most vulnerable position in their lives,” said Basile.
AAC also operates River Oaks Treatment center in Riverview, where former transportation director Mike Isom says staff was often unprepared to deal with mental health issues.
“They're psychotic, they're out of their mind when they come off that plane,” said Isom.
In 2016, an Illinois man was killed when he wandered away from the center and stepped in front of a moving car.
Last month, another client shot himself with a stolen handgun during a burglary attempt in a nearby neighborhood.
“Who’s watching them? These folks are not in the best of health or condition mentally and they need to monitor that. That’s super important,” said neighbor Ray Serrano.
“Unfortunately, I think government regulation and oversight is lagging in this industry that has developed over night,” said Basile.
We reached out to AAC for comment, but they didn't get back with us.
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