A fire at a drug rehab center in Peru leaves many questions unanswered for the relatives and loved ones of the people who died there last month. News reports since the deadly blaze three weeks ago have varied significantly but leave one thing certain – 27 people involved in recovery efforts were killed, and 11 more were seriously injured. Recovery First wishes to extend our sincerest condolences to those who were lost while examining what happened to ensure that people – both addicts and their loved ones – make careful treatment decisions.
The fire occurred at Lima’s Christ is Love addiction and alcoholism treatment center on Saturday, January 28th. The center is known for treating substance abuse and other conditions using education programs that are centered on the bible and biblical teachings, but it’s not clear exactly what these teachings consisted of. It’s also unclear how long the clinic had been in operation.
Reports have stated that residents of the treatment center deliberately started the fire after staff members refused to let them leave. Witnesses stated that one resident set a mattress on fire that quickly got out of control. The iron gates at Christ is Love were locked, causing pandemonium among the more than 70 people trapped inside. Some were able to escape only by jumping from second and third floor windows.
Firefighters at the scene indicated that there were more than 18 people per room in some parts of the clinic that were designed to house far less, adding to the unusually high death toll for fires in this city of more than 7.5 million people.
While these types of conditions may seem deplorable and in violation of human rights to many around the world, the fact of the matter is that Peruvian law actually permits forced treatment. Parents, spouses, guardians and even government officials can enact a process referred to as Judicial Interdiction to remand a drug user, alcoholic or even a mentally ill person against their will to treatment. And while there may be significant debate about the efficacy of mandated drug or alcohol addiction treatment, the state of forced treatment at the Christ is Love clinic seems to be at least partly responsible for the deaths of 27 people.
City officials have indicated that the drug rehab center was not licensed, prompting authorities to move to arrest the owners. However, the day after the fire the primary owner, Raul Garcia Albornoz, and two other men whose relationship to the clinic are unknown at this time, turned themselves in to police. Under Peruvian law the men could face 8 years or more in prison, although they have stoutly proclaimed their innocence.
Despite their pleas, authorities have charged the men with homicide.
In the United States, conditions at treatment centers are much more favorable – including at facilities in American prisons. But while many experts point to evidence that mandated treatment appears to work, others argue that one necessary component of getting clean and staying clean is a conscious choice to do so on the part of the addict or alcoholic.
Whatever the case may be, the drug rehab fire at Peru’s Christ is Love treatment center is a tragedy that won’t soon be forgotten. May the loved ones of those lost find peace, and may Peru take action to ensure that a similar event never occurs again.
If you or someone you love is struggling with a drug problem, you can get help right now from a drug rehab that is widely considered among the most successful in the US. At Recovery First, many of our staff members were once patients, so we know exactly what it’s like to be where you’re at now. Call us. Let’s talk about it – free of charge, completely confidential and with no obligation.