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Celebrity Rehab Seeks Image Makeover

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Malibu, Calif.-based 'rehab center to the stars' Promises says that the antics of some of its former clients have hurt its image, and is seeking to win back some public respect, the Los Angeles Times reported May 13.

Highly publicized relapses by the likes of Promises grads Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan have made the high-priced treatment program the punchline of many jokes. For example, Tonight Show host Jay Leno recently said of terrorists rejoining Al Qaida after being released from U.S. custody: “Apparently, Guantanamo Bay has the same success rate as the Promises Rehab Center in Malibu.”

Promises officials say the snarky comments haven't hurt their bottom line, but the program has recently launched a public-relations campaign to boost its image, including inviting reporters on tours that stress the serious nature of the program.

“This is not a celebrity flophouse,” said publicist and Promises graduate Jonathan Franks. “There is just a disconnect between the way people perceive this place and the way it is.”

Part of the problem for Promises, according to Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman, is that, “Certain celebrities go to rehab because they recognize they need help. But certain celebrities go to rehab to get the heck out of Dodge, to escape the scrutiny of the media and the blogs.”

“When you make your living treating people who are conspicuous and in the public eye, you have to expect that you are also going to be in the public eye when they fail, and not everybody succeeds in treatment,” said Promises CEO David Sack. “The ones who succeed are boring and the public has less interest in them. The ones who fail spectacularly, who do things that are reckless and show poor judgment, are going to wind up in the papers.”

Promises recently changed ownership and has been under investigation by the state for allegedly providing medical care outside the scope of its license. Sack said policy changes have been implemented to address those concerns.

Another aspect of Promises' image problem is its high price tag — some stays can cost $100,000 for a month — and lavish appointments, including gourmet meals, tennis courts, a pool and 300-thread count sheets in bedrooms. Sack defends these amenities as the perks expected by an upscale clientele, saying, “The assumption is that because we have nice rooms we have a laissez-faire program with people just camped out here to dry out … The environment is relaxed, but the program is not.”

Sack said that Promises is looking into third-party outcomes evaluation to back its success claims.

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