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Key Staffing Vacancy Leads to Champion Center Unit Closure

Lompoc Healthcare District board votes to temporarily shut down part of chemical-substance treatment facility

The Lompoc Champion Center’s 34-bed Medical Detoxification Unit will be closed at least temporarily due to staffing issues as a result of a decision made Wednesday by the Lompoc Healthcare District board of directors. Click to view larger
The Lompoc Champion Center’s 34-bed Medical Detoxification Unit will be closed at least temporarily due to staffing issues as a result of a decision made Wednesday by the Lompoc Healthcare District board of directors. (Contributed photo)

The Lompoc Champion Center’s 34-bed Medical Detoxification Unit will be closed at least temporarily due to staffing issues.

Dr. Denise Rubino, who had served as medical director for the addiction treatment and recovery facility operated by the Lompoc Healthcare District, returned to her medical practice in Southern California, leaving the vital slot empty.

On Wednesday, the Lompoc Healthcare District board of directors met in closed session before discussing and evaluating in open session “circumstances which have arisen at the Champion Center which require the immediate closing of the medical detox unit of the facility and action thereon.”

During the meeting, board members voted to shut down the unit, officials said.

“Without a medical director, the Champion Center no longer has the capacity to operate,” said Steve Collier, the center’s executive director and founder of Addiction Medicine Services, Inc. 

AMS partnered with Lompoc hospital to operate the facility.

“As an acute-care hospital, a medical directorship is a non-negotiable component,” Collier said. "Therefore we are unable to continue to operate."

An active national recruitment search is underway for a physician specializing in addiction treatment, hospital officials said.

The board of directors will assess the facility’s future, hospital district officials said.

“In the next two months, we will evaluate the detox unit with respect to new state program funding and medical detox services being requested by local tri-county businesses,” said LVMC Chief Executive Officer Jim Raggio. “The entire situation saddens me, as these services are so much in need, and the staff at the Champion Center are providing such excellent care.”

Nursing staff at the medical unit has been offered jobs at other Lompoc hospital district facilities.

The  Healthcare District operates Lompoc Valley Medical Center and the Comprehensive Care Center in addition to the Champion Center.

The center in the renovated former hospital building at 303 South C St. has stopped admitting new patients, but will continue to help current patients in residential treatment (The Oaks) and the sober-living components of the center, officials said.

The treatment facility opened in November 2014 and was designed to offer several levels of care, including hospital-level detoxification, residential treatment and outpatient partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient treatment services.

In addition to 34 acute-care hospital beds, the facility has 15 residential beds and 30 recovery residences. As of late 2016, the Champion Center had logged 355 patient admissions, a small number for the veteran recovery administrators familiar with established programs in larger communities.

Last year, Tricare, the insurance program for military members, veterans and dependents, joined the insurance firms to cover voluntary treatment.

Collier said the need to treat people with job-related trauma and substance-abuse problems remained large.

“Our first responders, military, police and fire — who often use alcohol and drugs to cope with the symptoms of that trauma — need a facility that treats them," Collier said. "This need hasn’t diminished. The Champion Center is a beautiful state-of-the-art facility with tremendous potential. I know the potential. I know what the Champion Center is capable of doing.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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