High-profile figures seek treatment at a cost of $1,200 per day
Former congressman Mark Foley, the Florida Republican, is the latest public figure to seek treatment at Sierra Tucson, which broke ground Thursday on an expansion that will add 44 beds to the private treatment facility.
Sierra Tucson is a state-licensed, 96-bed psychiatric hospital and addiction treatment center north of Tucson, in Catalina.
It treats people 18 and older for drug, alcohol, food or sex addiction, and other medical and behavioral health problems, including depression, unresolved trauma and abuse, panic disorder, compulsive gambling, bulimia and anorexia, said Sierra Tucson’s executive director, Keith P. Arnold. Most patients are in their mid- to late-30s.
Arnold said Thursday the expansion is driven by an increasing demand for treatment at the facility, which provides a toll-free number for residents of the United Kingdom.
He said about 30 people a month are referred to other facilities because Sierra Tucson is fully booked.
Among other high-profile personalities who have said they were treated at Sierra Tucson are actor-producer Michael Douglas, drummer Ringo Starr and golfer John Daly for alcoholism; and for emotional issues, actress-singer Julie Andrews.
The groundbreaking event drew the nation’s former “drug czar,” retired four-star U.S. Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who was director of the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy from 1996 to 2001.
McCaffrey is on the board of directors of Sierra Tucson’s parent company, CRC Health Group of San Jose.
He became passionate about treatment for addiction while serving in the Army in 1976.
McCaffrey said in an interview Thursday that he saw intoxicated American soldiers laying in their own vomit, crushed Colt 45 malt liquor cans strewn around them, and decided something must be done to help them.
He demanded adequate drug and alcohol addiction treatment for soldiers and veterans.
People with addictions “are not dead-enders,” McCaffrey said.
The cost of addiction treatment – about $1,200 a day at Sierra Tucson – is comparable to treatment for serious physical injury sustained in combat or in a car accident, he said, and “should not be stigmatized.”
McCaffrey said there are 19 million addicts in America today but only 3.5 million of them are in treatment.
“We have to educate the American people about addiction,” he said. “And by the way, there is hope.”
However, many employer-provided health insurance plans pay only for a three-day hospital stay for detoxification and do not cover further inpatient treatment for drug or alcohol addiction.
Foley checked into Sierra Tucson Oct. 1, initially for a 30-day stay. Many patients stay for 45 days of treatment. His attorney said last week that he would be staying beyond the original 30 days. Because of patient confidentiality rules, Arnold could not say if Foley remains at the facility.
Foley resigned in September from the House of Representatives, saying he had a problem with alcohol and after being confronted with lurid computer messages he sent to male teenage pages.
CRC owns 100 for-profit addiction treatment facilities in at least 20 states. It bought the 22-year-old facility in 2005 for $130 million.
For information on Sierra Tucson, call its outreach line at (800) 624-5858.
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Sierra Tucson: www.SierraTucson.com