OREM — Country singer Jo Dee Messina in February checked into a Utah-based therapy center to help free her from an alcohol addiction.

But Messina, known for such hits as "I'm Alright" and "Burn," likely would not have sought help at the Sundance treatment facility if sex offenders also stayed there.

That's according to Richard Losee, owner of Cirque Lodge, a substance-abuse treatment center that is gaining a reputation as a get-well getaway place for the rich and famous.

For the record, Losee declined to confirm whether Messina was a patient at Cirque Lodge — but didn't hesitate to deny a rumor that he wants to start treating sex offenders in addition to substance abusers.

Did Messina stay at Cirque Lodge? The May 3 issue of People magazine chronicled Messina's stay at "a four-week alcohol-treatment program in Sundance, Utah."

Since Cirque Lodge is the sole treatment center in the area — with a lodge in Sundance and a studio in Orem — chances are very high she was at Losee's facility, which can house up to 26 patients and costs more than $25,000 for a month's stay.

An agenda on today's Orem City Council agenda may have sparked the persistent rumor about Cirque Lodge. A group of neighbors near Cirque's studio — formerly Osmond Studios on 800 North — says the center is asking permission to treat sexual offenders.

Losee said Orem officials will be asked to consider approving some changes to the building, such as an addition to the building so 50 more patients could stay there and permission to use the center's helicopter pad to transport patients up the canyon via helicopter.

The Federal Aviation Administration does not object to the helicopter-pad proposal — but the Orem City Planning Commission cited safety concerns when voting against it.

Mark Davis, who lives next to the studio, said he is upset about the plan to use a helicopter there because it would generate a lot of noise. He thinks Cirque Lodge therapists should be able to treat sex offenders — but only if they also have addictions to drugs or booze.

"If they're there for substance abuse and they happen to be a pedophile, that's OK," Davis said. "Right now, there is no restriction on who he (Losee) can have there."

But anyone who says Cirque Lodge has treated sexual offenders is telling "a malicious, vicious lie," said Gary Fisher, director of operations for Cirque Lodge.

"We don't have sex offenders. We haven't asked anybody to treat sex offenders," he said. "There has never been a sexual offender at the Cirque Lodge because, quite frankly, we wouldn't be able to get anyone else to come here."

Some patients, though, often exhibit signs of problems outside their addictions once they begin to recover — such as eating disorders, emotional illness or sexual addictions.

Those, he said, are rarely addressed by counselors, who are required to refer patients to other treatment centers that specialize in problems other than chemical addictions.

"We obviously treat a pretty affluent clientele," Fisher said. "Do you think the people in here for treatment would really want to be in here with sexual offenders?"

Fliers about Cirque Lodge — that focused on the so-called proposal to treat sex offenders — were circulated in the neighborhood on the back of an elementary school lunch menu.

Despite Losee's efforts to correct the information, neighbors continue to take a stance against any proposal to house sex offenders at the studio.

"The facility is surrounded by neighborhoods and is a half mile from (Foothill) elementary school," neighbor Joy Patten said. "This is a community safety issue."

The Orem City Council meets tonight. According to its agenda, the council will only discuss Losee's request for a conditional-use permit to operate a helipad.


E-mail: lwarner@desnews.com