Aug. 23, 2008 -- The California Department of Public Health is investigating a Pasadena hospital associated with the doctor who hosts VH1's reality show "Celebrity Rehab" after three patients reportedly died and one was allegedly sexually assaulted on the premises during the past five months.
The three deceased patients -- one of whom was found dead just hours after checking into the facility -- were all patients at the Aurora Las Encinas Hospital, according to ABC News' Los Angeles affiliate KABC. The facility's chemical dependency program is co-directed by Dr. Drew Pinsky, host of radio's "Love Line" and "Celebrity Rehab."
While the hospital refused to confirm the reported rape and deaths, citing patient confidentiality laws, a CDPH spokesman confirmed the ongoing investigation.
Pinsky told ABCNews.com that he had nothing to do with any of the patients involved.
"These were not my patients," said Pinsky, who because of patient confidentiality laws could not delve into the details of the reported deaths.
"To associate me with these situations is really becoming an egregious problem," said Pinsky, who added that the real headline should be the increasing number of deaths related to prescription drug abuse.
Arline Clyburn, whose 23-year-old son, Alex Clyburn, died nine hours after he was admitted to Las Encinas for an addiction to painkillers, told ABCNews.com that poor monitoring led to her son's death.
"I think our son died because of the clinical incompetence and gross negligence, and the protocol that was insufficient," Clyburn said.
One of the other patients who died reportedly overdosed on another patient's drugs, according to KABC, and the third patient committed suicide by hanging himself.
In addition, the Los Angeles Times reported that a 14-year-old patient was raped by another 16-year-old patient.
Two of the patients who reportedly died were housed in the chemical dependency area of Las Encinas, and according the Los Angeles Times, the other two alleged incidents occured in the facility's hospital.
Pinsky did say that he had at one time treated Jeffrey Hearn, the patient who reportedly overdosed while staying at Las Encinas, but said that Hearn hadn't been in his care for several months.
Hearn's father told the Los Angeles Times that because of Pinsky's support of his son, he had given a donation to the hospital.
"I feel horrible for the families, and my heart goes out to the families and anyone else who loses their family to addiction," said Pinsky.
Who is Responsible for the Rehab Deaths?
A spokeswoman for the California Department of Public Health declined to comment to ABCNews.com about the circumstances of the deaths, but like all rehab facilities under its jurisdiction, Las Encinas was subject to CDPH inspection. Routine assessments are performed every three years, the spokeswoman said, and any complaints received are also immediately followed up with an in-person assessment.
Pinsky said he could not comment on whether he believes the hospital was at fault for the reported deaths and alleged rape, but he did say that the facility acted quickly to assess the situation.
"I know swift action was taken, and there were review agencies in place," said Pinsky. "The hospital is completely up to standards."
'I Hold Him Responsible'
When Alex Clyburn entered Las Encinas, a clinical registered nurse at the facility told the family he would be monitored every 15 minutes in the hours after he was admitted, but his mother said that didn't happen. According to the Los Angeles Times, the mental health worker involved in Clyburn's case has since been fired.
"He was absolutely not checked on every 15 minutes," said Arline Clyburn. "We left him at 10 p.m. in the evening. He was at 7:15 in the morning found stiff, rigid and unresponsive in his room lying in his bed.
"The paramedics called and arrived and pronounced him stiff and rigid and they didn't even perform CPR, and at 7:45 he was pronounced dead."
Clyburn said that one of the reasons the family chose Las Encinas was her son's admiration for Pinsky after watching the first season of "Celebrity Rehab."
"I picked it because of a couple of things, one of which was the professional people who were experts in chemical dependency, and our son had been watching Dr. Drew Pinsky's program on TV and was very impressed with his level of success," she said. "He was considered a national expert. "
"I think Dr. Drew is responsible for the quality of care on that unit and he should have known that there needed to be corrections made," said Clyburn, who said she plans to sue the hosptial for malpractice.
"I hold him responsible for my son's death, yes."
'Where You Find Addicts, You Find Drugs'
Daniel Gatlin, the executive director of Renaissance Malibu, another high-end rehabilitation facility that allowed ABC News' video cameras inside his facility to chronicle Daniel Baldwin's rehabilitation in 2007, characterized Encinas' reputation as "up and down" over the years, suggesting that the facility's recent surge in media attention may have been detrimental to its ability to provide good patient care.
"[Las Encinas'] layout makes it harder to watch patients," said Gatlin. "There are a lot of little buildings on the grounds, and when people are that vulnerable you need to be watching them closely."
Pinsky acknowledged that the expansive facility does lead to what he referred to as "challenges" for the unit managers.
"It's for sure a challenge on my unit in terms of keeping drugs out," said Pinsky. "But that's a challenge of any chemical dependency program -- it's just an extra one [at Las Encinas]. Where you find addicts, you find drugs. But we are hypervigilant."
Las Encinas spokesman Steve Jennings declined to comment specifically about allegations that the hospital staff was not properly monitoring its patients. Instead, he reiterated the hospital's commitment to providing the best possible care to patients.
"Las Encinas Hospital has been committed to quality patient care and service to the community for over 100 years, and will continue to do so," said Jennings.
Does Celeb Clientele Mean Less Attention for the Average Addict?
Las Encinas and Pinsky developed reputations for treating high-profile patients after Pinsky appeared on "Celebrity Rehab," leading some to question whether the fame and fortune of high-profile clients somehow distracts hospital staff from other patients. "Celebrity Rehab" was not filmed at Las Encinas.
"I'm sure neglecting [average patients] could happen," said Gatlin, who described high-profile patients as "high-maintenance." "It behooves anyone who is going to deal with celebrities in a hospital setting to have a well-trained staff."
But Pinsky was adamant that there is no difference in the care given to celebrity patients and any of the other patients at the hospital.
"Absolutely not," said Pinsky, responding to whether celebrities ever detract attention away from other patients.
"In fact, we accept insurance, and we mostly treat people who are the average person," said Pinsky.
"Everyone is treated the same -- everyone is just an addict with a disease," added Pinsky.