California Woman, 24, Died of Fentanyl Overdose While at Rehab Center: 'She Deserved Care'

“I thought 100% that was the absolute safest place for her to be, and it ended up not being safe at all,” Karri Ryder said of her 24-year-old daughter Melissa Bauman’s stay at a local sobriety center

A 24-year-old woman died after overdosing on fentanyl while staying at a California rehabilitation facility.

Melissa Bauman had long struggled with addiction and recently came in contact with fentanyl. Her mother, Karri Ryder, told KTLA5 that last summer her daughter was finally \ ready to get clean and not be "defined by her addiction."

On July 23, 2022, Ryder checked Bauman into Arlington Recovery Community and Sobering Center in Riverside, California in order to detox. She was placed in the facility's residential treatment wing, which provides treatment for those struggling with mental illness and substance abuse.

However, on the morning of July 26, Ryder received a call that her daughter had died at the rehab facility. Bauman's death was ruled an accidental overdose on fentanyl, and her mother stated that she had 1.6 nanograms of fentanyl in her system.

Melissa Bauman
Melissa Bauman Facebook

Fentanyl overdose deaths — particularly accidental fentanyl overdoses — have become increasingly common in the U.S. in recent years. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says a fatal dose of fentanyl is small enough to fit on the tip of a pencil.

"My life shattered," Ryder told the outlet. "I thought 100% that was the absolute safest place for her to be, and it ended up not being safe at all."

Now, Ryder has called for an investigation and filed a lawsuit against the county and MFI Recovery, the private company running the Arlington Recovery Community & Sobering Center, claiming that they failed to protect her daughter while attempting to get treatment.

Melissa Bauman
Melissa Bauman Facebook

The family's attorney, Elan Zektser, claims staff at the rehab center fabricated logs to show that they were checking on the 24-year-old every half hour. Ryder explained that prior to Bauman's death, she told her staff members weren't checking on her or providing enough water.

"MFI's sole job is to make sure that Melissa's okay while she's getting sober," Zektser told KTLA. "I can say that there are multiple instances where they're claiming to have gone and checked on Melissa just hours ago were lies. They didn't go."

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On Dec. 8, the California Department of Health Care Services shut down the residential treatment wing of the center until further notice. It is unclear if the closure is a direct result of Bauman's death and the subsequent lawsuit.

The Riverside facility was cited for "deficiencies" during a "licensure check … and their provisional license was subsequently revoked," Robert Youssef, a spokesperson for Riverside University Health System Behavioral Health — the county's mental health agency — told The Press-Enterprise.

Ryder told the outlet that the center's closure is a "win" in getting justice for Bauman.

"Everyone who loved Melissa is elated that Melissa is getting justice," she said, adding that life without her daughter is a nightmare. "I feel like they should have taken care of her. She deserved the care. She wanted it."

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.

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