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Media Articles - 2000s

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3 December 2002
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Rehab center nears opening

Battle Creek Enquirer (Battle Creek, MI)
July 19, 2002

Renovation efforts are in full swing at Narconon Stone Hawk, a drug rehabilitation center on St. Mary's Lake, after its owners overcame community objections and satisfied zoning requirements.

The residential treatment center was expected to open in August, but owners Kate and Per Wickstrom moved the opening date to mid-September to accommodate further renovation.

"We've got a lot of things to do and we want to make sure there aren't any distractions when the students arrive," said Kate Wickstrom, executive director.

She said many of the changes are cosmetic. The building has been vacant since the severe head trauma facility closed three years ago.

"Once the cleaners and mechanical guys finish, things will roll pretty fast," said Kate Wickstrom, who added renovations will cost $500,000.

So far, three of the facility's 40 full- and part-time positions - marketing director, estates manager and food services manager - are filled. Other positions yet to be filled include nurses, counselors, security personnel and reception and administrative staff.

Kate Wickstrom said community members donated time and supplies.

And even though the facility is not able to take reservations for placement in the program just yet, she said there has been interest in the new center.

"When a person reaches out and wants help, you don't want to make them wait two months - we refer them to another program," she said.

Once operational, the center will treat all forms of substance abuse, offering recovering addicts a four- to six-month program based on the writings of L. Ron Hubbard, Kate Wickstrom said.

"We're a secular program," she said, emphasizing the program is not affiliated with the Church of Scientology. "We're all here, regardless of beliefs, to get people off drugs and alcohol ... (because) we all know somebody who's been affected by drug or alcohol addiction."

At a Pennfield Zoning Board of Appeals meeting in May, many community residents spoke out against the Wickstroms' efforts to secure the use variance that allowed them to open the facility, but the board approved the request 2-to-1.

"We had a little opposition regarding our facility because of the stigma placed on people who are addicted," said Per Wickstrom, president of the facility. "(But) many of the neighbors agree - they feel that what we are doing is a good thing."

In June, the center's site plan unanimously was approved by the planning commission.

"All the things that were of concern were addressed by the zoning board of appeals," said Barb Darlington, Pennfield Township code enforcement officer and assistant to the zoning administrator.

Darlington said the appeals board will require its consent for the transfer of the property if the Wickstroms want to sell it. This will ensure that another drug rehabilitation facility that accepts psychiatric patients or prison inmates can't operate on the premises. Narconon will not accept those patients.

Wickstrom estimates the facility will be able to accommodate about 100 residents. It will have 24-hour, seven-day-a-week security and nursing staff.

During the program, residents will follow a strict regiment of classes, proper eating habits and the use of saunas to detoxify their bodies, the Wickstroms said.

Per Wickstrom, who went through the program as an alcoholic, said he and his wife decided to open the facility because of the impact the program had on his life.

"I overcame my problem with this program," said Wickstrom. "I had been through four different programs that didn't work ... and then I tried Narconon."