July 11, 2008

Probe: Clinic Waited Too Long to Report Sex Misconduct

By Michael Amon, Newsday, Melville, N.Y.

Jul. 11--A Manhattan drug rehab clinic kept quiet for too long about sexual misconduct allegations involving a counselor-trainee and a patient from Westbury, despite regulations requiring immediate disclosure of such incidents, a state probe has found.

Odyssey House waited five days to informally notify the state by phone that a trainee was accused of coercing sex from the woman and never filed a formal complaint, said an Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services report out yesterday.

The probe also found Odyssey House on East 121st Street in Harlem never checked the accused counselor's references before his hire in April and had tolerated "a pattern of poor professional boundaries, insubordination and inappropriate interactions with female patients," without reprimanding him. Further, the report said, lax monitoring allowed the Westbury woman to relapse during her monthlong stay at Odyssey House.

The report was prompted by allegations that the counselor coerced sex from the woman, 30, by threatening to report her drug use if she refused his advances. The counselor resigned on June 19 after the woman tested positive for drugs and told clinic officials about the sex.

Odyssey House officials disputed that they waited too long to report the alleged incident, saying a June 24 phone call was notification enough.

"We moved as quickly as we could," said clinic spokeswoman Isobelle Surface, explaining the clinic needed a few days to investigate the allegations before informing the state.

The clinic has until Aug. 11 to respond to the report and take corrective action. Separately, New York City police and prosecutors are investigating. No charges have been filed.

The Westbury woman -- whom Newsday is not naming because she says she is a sex crime victim -- went to Odyssey House in early May for a nine-month stay as part of an agreement with a Nassau County Drug Treatment Court judge to avoid jail. Court officials allowed her to leave the clinic after the sex allegations surfaced, but she then disappeared and a warrant was issued.

Authorities had a chance to arrest her over the weekend when she turned up at a Nassau hospital, but she was discharged on Sunday and disappeared again, the woman's mother said yesterday.


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