Planned Newkirk Drug Clinic May Be World's Biggest
By Michael McNutt, Enid Bureau
Thursday, May 18, 1989
NEWKIRK - Backers of a drug rehabilitation center scheduled to open later this year on the Chilocco Indian School grounds north of here say the facility has the potential to be the biggest of its kind in the world.
However, residents in this northern Oklahoma town eight miles from the Kansas border are concerned Narconon International is a front for the Church of Scientology, and, instead of rehabilitating alcohol and drug addicts, it will recruit new members and raise money for the controversial group. The person overseeing renovation work at Chilocco for Narconon is identified as an "experienced purification rundown in charge" by the Church of Scientology's official newsletter.
"Trained Scientologists to staff huge Oklahoma facility," reads a headline in the February 1989 issue of "The Auditor," a copy of which was made available to "The Oklahoman." Narconon, the article states, gets Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard's "technology applied broadly in the society."
Meanwhile, state officials who approved a certificate of need for the facility say it should not matter who operates the facility as long as they follow accepted practices and standards in the field.
Representatives of five Indian tribes who stand to earn $16 million over the next 25 years by leasing the Indian school campus to Narconon say they have visited Narconon' s drug rehabilitation facility in Los Angeles and are satisfied the organization is legitimate.
Harold Miles, with the State Department of Health and a member of the Health Planning Commission which approved a certificate of need license for Narconon in January, said no one opposed the organization then and now it is too late to appeal the state decision. Narconon still must get a license and be certified by the state, Miles said.
Unrest over Narconon developed after the Newkirk newspaper published two stories quoting various publications that Narconon was associated with the Church of Scientology, which often is referred to as more of a cult than a religion.
Betty Cook of Enid, with the Oklahoma Cult Awareness Network, said Narconon is a "front group" for Scientology.
And in the September 1981 issue of "Reader's Digest," then-senior editor Eugene H. Methvin called Narconon "Scientology's biggest social reform gimmick."
Miles said state officials could fmd no link between Narconon and the Church of Scientology and that California officials were satisfied with Narconon' s 25-bed drug rehabilitation center in Los Angeles.
According to published reports, the joint Narconon-Chilocco Development Authority received $200,000 from the Association for Better Living & Education, an organization identified in "The Auditor" as part of Narconon.
Miles and Leroy Bridges, with the State Department of Mental Health, tried to assure about 100 people who jammed into a public hearing held here last week that the state would inspect regularly the facility once it opened.
Renovation of several buildings on 165 acres of land leased by Narconon is underway with the facility scheduled to open in August or September.
Once opened, the program will be viewed by Mental Health Department workers for certification, Bridges said, and will be reviewed continuously at least six times a year.
Miles said Narconon is subject to punitive action if workers operate outside the law or its program outlined to the state.
"Narconon is a legitimate enterprise, proposing to do a legitimate service," he said. "If they do what they said they're going to do, they will be all right, and if they don' t do it, there is a process at work that will usher them across the state line."
John Duff, president of Narconon, said the 23-year old agency is not directly connected with the Church of Scientology. "It's a non-issue question," he said.
But Duff said the church is a supporter of Narconon and provides volunteers. Hubbard, Duff said, once gave Narconon $75,000 because Narconon uses five of his methods - complete withdrawal, supplements, balanced diet, exercise and using a sauna.
Hubbard, a science fiction writer who started Scientology in 1953, died in 1986. Advertisements for his 1950 book, "Dianetics; The Modem Science of Mental Health," still can be seen on television.
At first, the Narconon facility at Chilocco will use five or six of the 80 buildings on the campus in developing a 75-bed facility. Renovation costs are expected to cost at least $400,000, Duff said. About a dozen Indians have been hired to do the work and three Narconon staff members are at Chilocco.
Duff said 25 percent of those beds will be set aside for indigent Indians who suffer from chemical substance abuse.
Chilocco is being developed as a national program and most of its clients will be referred to the facility from Narconon offices throughout the country and will come from other states and Canada, Duff said.
Duff said he expects Narconon will employ a staff of about 35 and said he did not know if Edna Fulton, now serving as project director at Chilocco, will continue in that capacity.
However, "The Auditor" article stated that Tom Armstrong, identified by Cook as a Scientologist leader, will be in charge of the Chilocco project and that Fulton will be a member of the core staff.
Duff would not discuss the specifics of the contract with the five Indian tribes that make up the Chilocco Development Authority - Pawnee, Ponca, Otoe-Missouria, Kaw and Tonkawa - saying only the tribes would divide $16 million over the next 25 years with an option to renew the lease another 25 years.