UPDATE: California Palms owner challenges state effort to deny certification
A local attorney who operates an addiction and recovery center in Austintown, is fighting a legal battle to gain state certification for those addiction services.
A local attorney who operates an addiction and recovery center in Austintown is fighting a legal battle to gain state certification for those addiction services.
Sebastian Rucci has filed a civil lawsuit in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to keep the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services from denying certification to provide addiction treatment and mental health services at his California Palms Addiction and Recovery Campus.
Rucci says the state violated its own law by not providing him with an opportunity to correct issues with the facility cited in a letter from the department to Rucci.
"The state agency is not following the law. This creates fewer beds for addiction care in Ohio, and the possible elimination of the only facility treating veterans exclusively," Rucci told 21 News.
Rucci cites the Ohio Administrative Code, which reads, "An applicant that fails to comply with any or all of the certification standards applicable to the provider shall receive a written statement from the department citing items that are not in compliance. This statement shall describe the deficiencies, actions needed for correction, and a time frame for the provider to submit a written plan of correction."
The letter from the state to Rucci did not provide any time frame to submit a plan of corrections.
21 News reached out to the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Services to find out why no time frame was given.
A spokesperson responded that they would have not further comment due to the pending litigation.
Dr. Mark Hurst, Director of Mental Health and Addiction Services, notified Rucci that his application for certification was deficient in thirty areas, and Hurst proposed to deny California Palms application for certification.
Some of the findings include:
Although Rucci has thirty days to request a hearing on the findings, he has filed a complaint in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court claiming that the state has not given him information on ways to correct the findings on his application in spite of his repeated requests.
Rucci says the state's findings are based on information that is four months old. The state's letter says the violations were discovered during inspections in March of 2018.
He is asking a judge to stop the state from denying certification for California Palms until it reviews a plan of correction he says he has submitted.
The lawsuit says issuing a denial of the certification would do irreparable harm to California Palms.
“They interviewed all the guys. They came back and reported back to me they love the place. You saved their lives, They're getting healthy. They don't want to leave,” said Rucci about his clients.
In February, the Ohio Department of Medicaid issued a cease and desist letter to Rucci, challenging website ads claiming that California Palms was an Ohio Medicaid provider.
California Palms is easily identifiable to passers-by at Route 46 and Interstate 80 buy the large faux palm trees surrounding the building.
Before the building became an addiction and recovery center last year, it was known as the California Palms Hotel, a name it got after a federal judge informed Rucci that he could no longer use the name of the famous Eagles song “Hotel California” because another hotel had the rights to the name.
In 2015 state officials denied a liquor license for a bar inside the Hotel California saying that the same location had demonstrated in the past a disregard for laws, regulations and local ordinances.
The Liquor Control Commision ruling listed ten violations from 2009, including improper conduct and drug sales, when the business was known as the Go-Go Lounge, which was operated by Rucci.
The state has not yet responded to Rucci's lawsuit concerning the addiction and recovery center and no hearing dates have been set.