By Jill Cowan
8:39 PM PST, November 20, 2012
A chain of recovery homes for alcoholics and drug addicts can continue doing business in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa while a court case plays out, an Orange County judge has ruled.
Newport Beach-based Morningside Recovery dodged another potential bullet last week when the judge denied a request from the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs to shutter the homes.
"Morningside has a victory, and we get exonerated, in a sense," Morningside Chief Executive Mary Helen Beatificato said.
An ADP spokeswoman said she couldn't comment on the ruling to deny the agency's request for a preliminary injunction.
"The department will be exploring its options after the judge's decision is reviewed," spokeswoman Carol Sloan said in an email.
The request, which was initially filed in late September, went before Orange County Superior Court Judge William Monroe on Thursday afternoon. It was the latest action in a long, multi-case battle between Morningside and the state agency.
Morningside has been the target of multiple complaints from both Costa Mesa and Newport Beach over the years, and earlier this year was featured as a "rogue rehab" in a state report after a 20-year-old client suffering from alcoholism and bulimia died. Morningside has denied any culpability in the death.
In 2011, the ADP started the process of revoking Morningside's licenses as residential treatment centers, citing a number of operational violations, including improper handling of prescriptions and the treatment of too many patients.
Although this September those licenses were revoked, the houses don't need licenses to operate, provided they are "sober-living homes" where no medical treatment is provided, so the houses stayed open. Sober-living homes are protected by federal fair housing laws and are difficult to regulate.
In the separate case that was heard in court Thursday, the judge had previously denied a request by the ADP for a temporary restraining order, which was seen as an emergency measure to shut down the houses, citing insufficient evidence that such a swift move was necessary.
Both a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction are designed to stop a party (in this case, Morningside) from operating while that party's case moves through the legal process.
Beatificato said the fact that the injunction was rejected bodes well for Morningside in the rest of the case, which alleges that Morningside is illegally providing clinical care through the unlicensed sober living homes.
A case-management hearing is scheduled for Dec. 5.