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County admissions freeze lifted at Veterans Village of San Diego

Veterans Village of San Diego's campus for drug and alcohol rehabilitation is shown on Jan. 27, 2022.
Jill Castellano
Veterans Village of San Diego's campus for drug and alcohol rehabilitation is shown on Jan. 27, 2022.

After a seven-month pause, San Diego County officials have decided to resume admissions at a drug and alcohol treatment center that has struggled to comply with safety and staffing requirements.

The county’s Behavioral Health Services department informed the nonprofit organization, Veterans Village of San Diego, that new referrals would begin on Mar. 1 and clients could be admitted starting Mar. 6.

The decision ends the county’s August freeze on admissions at the rehab center taken “to ensure the safety, support and clinical wellbeing of those with behavioral health needs.” The county said the hold would stay in place “pending corrective actions.”


County spokesperson Mike Workman said Veterans Village is still on a Corrective Action Notice and being closely monitored to ensure compliance.

“Continued and future oversight of VVSD will include monitoring activities such as review of client records and program documentation, progress meetings with VVSD, technical assistance, and regular site visits,” Workman said.

The county oversees clients admitted to the nonprofit’s rehab center through the Drug MediCal funding program. In the 2021 fiscal year, Veterans Village received $6 million through the

program, which can enroll both veterans and civilians.

But the county moved to pause admissions two months after a June inewsource investigation found numerous health and safety hazards at the rehab center and reported on multiple deaths and overdoses at the facility. The freeze only affected clients admitted through the county-run program, not clients enrolled through the Veterans Administration or other programs.


Since the freeze, Veterans Village has told the county it would take more steps to help residents at high risk of overdose. Those steps include checking rooms more frequently, removing and replacing bathroom door locks, increasing urinalysis testing, providing escorts for off-campus trips and conducting transfers to more intensive care if needed.

Veterans Village Chief Executive Officer Akilah Templeton declined to comment for this story, but she has previously defended the organization, stating it has continued to provide safe and high-quality care in the face of numerous challenges outside of its control, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the opioid crisis and an industry-wide staffing shortage.

Veterans Village has operated in San Diego for more than four decades, providing addiction treatment, housing, employment services, legal support, dental care and other resources for thousands of veterans each year. It became famous for founding Stand Down, an annual three-day event that connects homeless veterans to community resources. The program has been replicated in hundreds of cities and praised by two U.S. presidents.

The nonprofit recently expanded its partnership with the Cohen Veterans Network to provide more mental health services for veterans and military families. Together, they opened a new mental health clinic in Torrance, Calif., earlier this month that offers therapy for post-traumatic stress, depression and other issues.

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