Malibu is dotted with some of the most well-known and expensive substance abuse recovery and mental health treatment facilities in the world, frequented by celebrities and other clients able to pay tens of thousands of dollars a month to detox in luxurious surroundings with ocean views. Dozens of these centers are clustered along a corridor that sat directly in the path of the Woolsey Fire, requiring evacuations of clients and staff before a number of the buildings succumbed to flames.
At Alo House Recovery Center, where two of the complex’s buildings are known to have burned down, all staff and patients were evacuated on Friday morning.
“At 5 a.m., we knew we were going to have to make a call,” Alo House CEO Evan Haines recalls. “Our staff made the arrangements, and at 7 a.m. we woke up the clients and moved everyone into vehicles. It took about 20 minutes.”
Haines’ own friend and mentor had recently closed an 18-bed rehab center in Mar Vista, and had left the facility largely intact. Alo House made arrangements that allowed them to quickly reopen the operation and move their patients in, with minimal interruption to their treatment.
“We feel very lucky that we were able to do that,” Haines says. “I know other facilities have not been so lucky. I have heard they have clients in hotels and Airbnbs right now while they figure out what to do next.”
Creative Care, off Trancas Canyon Road, is one of the facilities temporarily housing patients in Airbnb rentals, according to The Hollywood Reporter. That campus lost several houses. Other facilities have moved patients to hotels in Santa Barbara and Santa Monica or other properties owned by the centers.
Some, like the Canyon at Peace Park, are parts of chains of centers and were able to move patients to open beds at other area locations.
“All patients and staff on duty were proactively and safely evacuated from the facility and transported to another Foundations Recovery Network location in California,” said Kaitlin Pickrel, a representative for Canyon at Peace Park’s parent company. “Patients are receiving continuation of treatment services.”
While a dramatic, routine-altering emergency like this could potentially stress vulnerable patients in the middle of their treatment, Alo House’s Haines is optimistic.
“Everyone has really been brought together by this,” he says. “For the clients, I think they feel inspired by their own ability to make it through this situation and then arrive at a place where they feel safe and cared for. I hope they will end up coming out of this feeling even stronger than before.”
The scale of the Woolsey Fire may deter some of the facilities from returning to their original locations. Alo House has been evacuated for fires in recent years, but this time may be the last. The center is currently not sure if they want to take the risk of returning to Malibu.
“We’ve all lived in Los Angeles for a long time, and we’ve seen fires, but we’ve never seen anything like this,” Haines says. “My heart goes out to the residents of Malibu who have lost their homes. We can move our business to another location, but that’s a different thing than losing your family home. It’s going to be much harder for them to recover than for us.”
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