Good Inspection Won't Ensure Narconon Permit
By Michael McNutt, Enid Bureau
The Daily Oklahoman,
Tuesday, December 10, 1991
A controversial drug and alcohol treatment center seeking state certification received high scores on a recent state inspection, but that is no guarantee of certification, a state official said Monday.
"The only official word is that the (Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services) staff denied it last time, and it doesn't look like there's going to be much change on that," Guy Hurst of the Oklahoma Attorney General's office, said.
Hurst, who represents the mental health department staff, said no official recommendation has been prepared yet by the staff members.
Gary Smith, president of Narconon Chilocco New Life Center near Newkirk, issued a press release stating the facility's high scores "show that we do meet or exceed the mental health standards for drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers."
The Oklahoma Board of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Serivces is scheduled to issue a decision Friday on whether to certify Narconon Chilocco, which has been accepting patients since February 1990. The state inspection report will be one factor the board will consider.
Board members, who met for almost 16 hours in October to hear comments about Narconon's operation, set 13 requirements for certification. One was allowing department staff on campus to ascertain compliance with the requirements.
Others were to improve medical records kept at the treatment center and to hire appropriate, medically trained employees to administer medication and supervise the center's sauna and exercise programs.
A five member team inspected the center last month, Smith said. He released a document Monday showing Narconon scored 100 percent on governing authority, 92 percent on program management and 90 percent on program services.
Hurst said the center needed to score 100 in all three areas.
But Smith said state regulations require only a minimum of 75 percent to qualify for provisional certification.
Smith did not send the rest of the inspector's report, which listed several deficiencies.
Hurst said those deficiencies included failing to have enough nurses to dispense medication and failing to keep complete medical records. "They're serious (deficiencies) in that they're all required," he said. "If you don't have them, you're not supposed to be licensed."
Smith said patients are closely monitored by the medical staff, "but it didn't show on the records."
He also said the center has hired two registered nurses and plans to hire an additional nurse today. Hurst said Narconon Chilocco needs at least four nurses.
He said inspectors also listed concerns over the lack of drug and alcohol education materials given to patients. Patients are given mostly materials from the late L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology. Board members during their October hearing expressed concerns about medical procedures, and they asked for improvements in record keeping and patient monitoring to make sure they face no health risk as patients go through Narconon's treatment of vitamins, sauna and exercise.
Narconon has billed its treatment at "totally drug-free" but its recently appointed medical director, Dr. Ray Stowers, told board members that drugs are used on some patients in the withdrawal phase.