THE DAILY OKLAHOMAN, Friday, December 20, 1991
BOARD DENIES CERTIFICATION FOR NARCONON
By Michael McNutt, Enid Bureau
A state board Friday denied certification for a controversial drug and alcohol treatment center, and gave the facility seven days to move out its patients. The action ended a more than year-long effort by Narconon Chilocco New Life Center to win certification and likely will set up a court battle. Harry Woods Jr., a lawyer for the facility, indicated he would appeal the board's decision in Oklahoma County District Court.
Narconon officials earlier said they had invested more than $3.5 million to renovate the campus. It's unknown how many people work at the facility. The Oklahoma Board of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services voted 6-0 to deny certification for Narconon Chilocco, which sought permission to operate a 75-bed center north of Newkirk at the former Chilocco Indian School.
Board member Sue Ellen Read abstained from voting because she was not at the board's October hearing where members heard more than 12 hours of evidence. Board member Stewart R. Beasley Jr. asked that 27 patients now at Narconon Chilocco be removed within seven days because the program is basically unsafe. Their well-being is at risk.
Board members said their decision was based on the safety and effectiveness of Narconon Chilocco's treatment program.
Narconon's ties with the Church of Scientology were not considered, they said. The program relies on a sauna and exercise plan, and until October billed itself as "drug-free."
But Dr. Ray Stowers of Medford, hired by Narconon Chilocco in September, told board members that drugs were administered during the detoxification part of the program....
Board members refused a request from Woods to allow Narconon Chilocco to remain open until the matter is appealed and a court decision is rendered. Hurst said it could take as long as two or three years for a final ruling if the matter is appealed to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Narconon-Chilocco, operated by Narconon International, has been accepting patients since February 1990.
It applied for certification in August after state officials sought a court order to close the facility.
Our main concern is with our 27 clients in the program," said Gary Smith, president of Narconon Chilocco. They all selected Narconon for treatment and are doing well. A couple of them are court-ordered to be here from other areas.
We will be appealing this in court. This is not a new situation with the Department of Mental Health. We were forced to go to court with them a year ago because of their insistence of putting bias and prejudice into their reports, Smith said.
Lawyers for Narconon Chilocco then tied up the process in the court system for about a year, forcing the board to hire an independent inspector to evaluate the program.
Mental health department staffers were allowed to get back into the certification process three months ago. Staff recommended denial for Narconon Chilocco's application.
Board members made their decision after deliberating for about three hours in closed session.
They heard about 4 1/2 hours of testimony, including that of two for- mer students who said temperatures were as high as 200 degrees in saunas at the facility.
In October, board members listened to more than 12 hours of comments about Narconon Chilocco, and met for three hours in closed session before giving Narconon Chilocco until Friday to correct 13 areas of concern.