Dedicato Treatment Center’s Dr. Marshall speaks out against skeptics
By Hugo Guzman
Managing Editor, Foothill Advocate
SIERRA MADRE — Dr. Keith Marshall chose to open a sober-living home in Sierra Madre because of the community’s natural beauty and tranquility.
He said he soon encountered an ugliness in online comments that belied that tranquility of Sierra Madre’s Mayberry-like feel. The subsequent scrutiny of city officials felt like the sort of intimidation one might find in a less-enlightened community.
“I was hurt by the meanness,” Marshall said. “I dare anyone to judge me without first meeting me,” he said. I have a dissertation … I’m legit!.”
During a recent tour of the facility, Marshall, 53, a doctor of psychology, explained how he would clear the air. First of all, Dedicato Treatment Center is not a rehabilitation clinic, and despite the name, provides no medical treatment for drug addiction. If anything the facility, which opened in the fall provides a support system and living space for men and women being treated elsewhere.
Despite his assurances, over the past few months Marshall and Dedicato have come under intense scrutiny. Sierra Madre’s city council demanded explanations from his Operations Director during meetings in May, and he’s been visited by police in what he describes as an attempt at intimidation.
Marshall also said it’s a red herring when he’s compared to competitors like Chris Bethum, founder and owner of Community Recovery Los Angeles. Bethum was arrested in Lost Hills on suspicion of drug dealing, according to reports in LA Weekly.
If the allegations about Bethum are true, Marshall believes, “Guys like him need to be thrown in jail,” Marshall said. “He’s using his influence to sell drugs to people who are suffering.”
It’s hard not to take things personally, especially given Marshall’s own history.
Despite growing up in a middle-class neighborhood,and having attended Temple University in Pennsylvania, Marshall found himself in the grip of addiction after his first introduction to drug abuse in college at 19.
During his long road to recovery nearly 10 years after his first experimentation with drugs, he’s seen everything from luxurious and private rehab facilities, to nightmarish conditions on Skid Row. He often uses those experiences to connect with those seeking his help.
After his recovery, Marshall put himself through ten years of schooling, attending Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Now he hopes to convert unbelievers and critics of all kinds, and return the favor to those who need his help the most.
A tour around the sober living home reveals how seriously Marshall takes his mission. Every wall hosts a positive and uplifting image, or a gentle reminder of a life beyond drug abuse. Marshall spent thousands of dollars — most of it his own — to provide comfortable and safe amenities for his clients. A koi pond, a private gym, and other sites for reflection and relaxation help complete the environment necessary for a total shift in thinking. Although some might find the facilities too luxurious for those recovering from addiction, Marshall says he understands the need for both safety and structure.
“Would you rather they be on Skid Row?” he asks his detractors. “That environment isn’t conducive to change.”
Marshall keeps a close eye on his critics, and understands the arguments laid out against him. He believes that people have a vision of addicts as dirty criminals — but that’s a simplistic picture, he argues. Most of his clients have six-figure incomes and seek the privacy and accountability a sober living home can provide.
No one enters Dedicato without extensive screening. They are tested regularly, and must not have outstanding legal cases or criminal records. They’re kept to a strict curfew, and even their visitors must submit to a background check.
“This is my life. This is my passion,” Marshall says. “I want to see people get clean.”