Narconon Granted Further Licensing Delay By State Board Of Mental Health
24 October 1991
The state Board of Mental Health and Substance Abuse has voted to postpone a decision on whether to grant certification to the controversial Narconon Chilocco New Life Center.
Board members announced at 11:45 p.m. Friday that they would make their decision on the center's application Dec. 13.
The center near Newkirk in far northern Oklahoma was the subject of a daylong public hearing Friday on Narconon's petition for state certification. More than 250 people attended the hearing, 200 of which supported the facility.
State Mental Health Department staffers are recommending Narconon's certification request be denied. And Dr. John Chelf, a Tulsa psychiatrist hired by the board to evaluate Narconon, submitted a report questioning its effectiveness.
He said during an April visit, he was told patients dependent on alcohol and drugs were treated mostly with saunas and vitamins. Chelf said such treatment during the withdrawal process could be risky.
However, Narconon medical director Dr. Ray Stowers testified that he prescribes Valium and sedatives by phone to patients going through difficult withdrawals.
After some board members questioned why Narconon has no licensed person, like a nurse, on staff to distribute medicine, Narconon lawyer Harry Woods Jr. said the center would hire one.
Under further questioning, Stowers agreed that the center's program is not actually "drug-free," as its literature claims.
Mike St. Amnons, the center's public relations director, said under questioning that Narconon's manual describing the program as drug-free should be changed.
Among those testifying on behalf of Narconon was actress Kirstie Alley, who credits the Narconon program with saving her life. Ms. Alley now is national spokeswoman for Narconon.
"I think it's the best rehab in the world," said Ms. Alley, who has given about $380,000 to Narconon Chilocco for renovation work and scholarships for patients.
Ms. Alley, who said she broke her cocaine habit after undergoing a Narconon program in Los Angeles, advised the board members not to worry about details and to certify Narconon because the treatment works.
A Los Angeles doctor who developed the National Football League's drug treatment program testified that Narconon's program is safe.
"Does it work?" Dr. Forrest Tennant asked. "Beats me. There's no scientific evidence that it does. What's important is they apparently don't hurt."
St. Amnons testified that the set fee for treatment at Narconon Chilocco was $20,000, up from $12,000 when the center began operations. He said that members of the Five Civilized Tribes received free treatment.