On November 24, 2012, Sherri Wilkins—a 52-year-old alcohol and drug about counselor employed by Twin Town Treatment Center in Torrance, CA—was about to leave work when she decided to have a few drinks before driving home. She drank three single-serving bottles of vodka and a can of beer before pulling out of the rehab’s parking lot and heading for her home.
Substance Abuse Counselor Charged with Vehicular Manslaughter
Shortly after leaving her workplace the substance abuse counselor—who was a recovering addict herself—struck 31-year-old Phillip Moreno with her car. Instead of stopping, Wilkins attempted to flee, driving two miles with Moreno splayed on the front of her car having plunged halfway through the car’s windshield. It wasn’t until other drivers swarmed her at an intersection that she was finally forced to stop.
Unfortunately, Morena did not survive the incident and was pronounced dead when emergency services personnel arrived on the scene only moments later. At the time of the accident, Wilkins was found to have a blood-alcohol content (BAC) more than twice that of the legal limit, which is 0.08 percent in the state of California.
Following the incident, Sherri Wilkins was charged and found guilty of vehicular manslaughter, which garnered her a 55-year-to-life sentence that she is still serving today. Phillip Moreno’s family, however, felt as though justice had not yet been served.
Twin Town Treatment Center Held Partially Responsible
Moreno’s family hired a lawyer to investigate the occurrence. Coincidentally, the victim’s brother-in-law, Marco Salgado, happened to have been in treatment at Twin Town Treatment Center and had actually been in many counseling sessions with Wilkins. According to Salgado, Wilkins was visibly drunk or high on drugs during many of the sessions she led and would continually nod off throughout.
Although he was only a patient, Salgado said it was obvious that Wilkins had relapsed and was no longer sober, but none of the other staff members seemed to acknowledge Wilkins’s inebriated state. Therefore, the Moreno family decided to hold Twin Town Treatment Center as partly culpable for the death of Phillip Moreno.
It’s the victim’s family’s belief that the treatment center where Wilkins worked had some level of responsibility when it came to monitoring counselors who had a prior history of addiction so that they can be sure they’re sober. As such, the Moreno family’s lawyer, Brian Kabateck, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Twin Town Treatment Center.
In response, the facility claimed to have had no reason to believe Wilkins had relapsed. Officials speaking on behalf of the Torrance rehab also stated that intruding upon or challenging the status of her recovery without cause would have been a violation of her privacy due to disabled employees’ rights in the state of California.
Finally, the facility asserts that Wilkins had not actually been at the facility that day, or at least not to work; while she may have been in the parking lot, the facility had been closed for about five hours by the time of the accident.
Is Substance Abuse a Common Problem Among Rehab Counselors?
While the Wilkins-Moreno incident may only be an isolated case, it does make one wonder whether there aren’t many other addiction counselors out there who are abusing alcohol or drugs unknowingly. It’s essential for counselors to be remaining sober because not only are they teaching others about the importance of sobriety, but being under the influence can very easily put patients and bystanders in danger.
Moreover, this incident poses the question of whether rehabilitation facilities shouldn’t be regularly conducting drug screens on their employees to ensure that they’re providing the best level of care to patients.
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Being addicted to alcohol or drugs not only affects the addict him or herself, but it can also have major ramifications for all the people in his or her life. If you or someone you love would like to speak with a treatment specialist to explore the available recovery options, call Drug Treatment Center Finder at 855-619-8070. With one phone call, you can be on your way to lasting health and happiness.