Woman, 22, dies during Arizona rehab stint

PHOENIX — Madison Victoria Cross, a 22-year-old mother battling opioid addiction, flew from her Ohio home to Phoenix last week, determined to get clean through an Arizona rehab program.

But on Oct. 10, three days after landing at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and being driven directly to a drug detox center in Sun City West, she was found crumpled on the floor of the facility.

She was pronounced dead minutes later.

Her mother, Bobbie Moussa, of Galena, Ohio, received a call from Serenity Care Center, the detox facility, early that morning. She said she was never told her daughter was not breathing when she was rushed by ambulance to Banner Del Webb Medical Center.

"They told me what happened at the detox center. They found her lying on the floor. They called 911," Moussa said.

She was told her daughter's pulse rate was 106.

"They didn't tell me she had stopped breathing. I thought she was going to be OK."

Banner Del Webb staff later explained that by the time Cross arrived at the hospital, her brain and heart had been without oxygen too long, Moussa said. Hospital staff gave her two units of blood as they attempted tor revive her, but those efforts were unsuccessful, Moussa said.

The lingering question: Why did she die?

The Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office completed an autopsy, but said the cause and manner of death and toxicology results are pending further investigation.

Representatives of Serenity Care Center said they would cooperate with investigators looking into the death, but would not discuss specifics of the case.

"We can confirm the death of a patient from our Serenity Care Center on Tuesday. We are saddened by this event and are cooperating fully with investigators," said George Haj, a Serenity spokesman. "In parallel, we are doing our own inquiry to further assess the situation."

The Arizona Department of Health Services licensed Serenity as a behavioral-health inpatient facility in April 2016. The center, located at 13951 W. Meeker Blvd., Sun City West, is authorized to provide behavioral health, detoxification, medication and physical health services.

In April, the state fined the center $250 for failure to renew its license in a timely manner. 

The center is part of a larger network of drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers in Arizona, California and Florida founded by Bryan Deering Sr., who is also a call-center entrepreneur in Georgia and Florida.

Deering's other Arizona centers include Red Rock Addiction and Treatment Center in Mesa, an outpatient facility, and Shangri-La residential home in Phoenix.

The Arizona Department of Health Services did not respond to repeated inquiries  about whether it would investigate the circumstances of Cross' death, including whether investigators examined the center's patient charts or the frequency with which Cross' vital signs were checked in the hours before she died.

The agency has made sweeping recommendations at the behest of Gov. Doug Ducey to combat an opioid crisis that kills an average of two Arizonans each day.

Serenity staff told Cross' family members that her vitals were checked every 15 minutes. It was unclear whether she showed any signs of distress prior to her collapse.

North County Fire and Medical District crews received a 911 call from Serenity at 4:14 a.m. about a patient who was not breathing, according to Assistant Chief Tim Van Scoter.

Van Scoter said his department's crews arrived at 4:17 a.m. and left at 4:31 a.m. with Cross. She was at the hospital in less than three minutes.

In the weeks leading up to her trip to Arizona to get clean, Cross had experienced some seizures, her mother and grandmother said.

Cross brought anti-seizure medication with her from Ohio to Arizona, storing it in an oversized plastic bag.

Moussa asked Serenity staff whether Cross had been taking her medication during detox, but the Serenity employee seemed unaware of her problem with seizures before telling Moussa that it was documented in paperwork somewhere, Moussa said.

Cross' family was devastated by the sudden death of a young mother who played guitar and piano and was quick with a laugh and a smile. She leaves behind a daughter, Kinsley, who is nearly 3.

Cross agreed to undergo rehabilitation after Moussa and other family members staged an intervention less than two weeks ago, Moussa said. She had previous rehab stints in California and Michigan, but was determined to get healthy this time for herself and her daughter, her mother and grandmother said.

"She wanted help. She wanted to get well," said her grandmother, Vickie Chilcote. "She had been through many treatments. For the first year and a half, she wasn't ready ... She wanted to get sober this time. She fully intended to do the whole thing."

Calls and recommendations led the family to enroll her at Serenity Care Center. Family members contacted Brian Basil, who describes himself as an independent "interventionist" in Columbus, Ohio, to get advice on how to approach her about rehab.

"I just kind of coached them a little bit on what to say, how to act and how to have boundaries," Basil said.

Cross arrived in Phoenix on Saturday evening. A driver dispatched by the rehab center took her directly to Serenity.

Basil called the death "very rare."

"I have been doing this for 11 years, and I think it's happened three times," he said.

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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