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Media Articles - 1980s

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State Boys Say Chilocco Is A Done Deal

The Newkirk Herald Journal,
11 May 1989

NEWKIRK, May 11, 1989 - About 80 persons appeared at the Newkirk City Commission meeting Monday evening for an informational session on the Chilocco Indian School project. Present at the meeting were Mr. Howard Miles, designee of the Commissioner of Health, who presides over the Oklahoma Health Planning Commission; Mr. Leroy Bridges, public affairs specialist with the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health; and Mr. William Mehojah, chairman of the Kaw Tribe, along with several members of the Chilocco Development Authority. Mr. Miles, Mr. Bridges, and Mr. Mehojah were at the meeting at the invitation of Mayor Garry Bilger.

Mr. Miles explained to the group the purpose of the Health Planning Commission, which is to oversee the growth of health services in the state so that they occur in an orderly fashion and along guidelines of an existing 4 year plan. He said the operators of the proposed Chilocco project have complied with the existing rules and regulations of the State of Oklahoma, and that they have been issued a Certificate of Need, that the statutory period of objection is over and that the certificate is not subject to recall, even in court.

The next step, Mr. Miles said, is for the Oklahoma Health Department to issue a license, which, in the case of alcohol and drug abuse facilities, concerns only the physical facilities.

Plans are presented to the State Health Department, which assigns an architect, who approves the plans. Then the work proceeds, and when finished, the State Health Department inspects the facility for compliance with the approved plans. If the facility is approved, it is licensed. The State Health Department license applies only to the physical facility, and has nothing to do with the program or staffing. That falls under the Department of Mental Health, which certifies the program and staffing, and is Mr. Bridges' department.

Mr. Bridges said that plans for the Chilocco project were submitted and will go through the regular process just like any other project in the state. He said that once the facility has been licensed by the State Health Department, when the facility has been approved, the State Mental Health Department will send an inspection team to the site to approve the program, if it complies with the normally accepted standards for such facilities in the State of Oklahoma. He said that according to documents submitted to his department by the operators, the staff would consist of "certified alcohol and drug counselors, certified drug counselors, medical doctors, and nurses." This is the kind of program that all of the people comply with before they are certified in the State of Oklahoma.

Concerning the patients, Mr. Bridges said "All of them will be referred from other states into here except the local Indian people who will be given a chance to have first choice on beds out there if they are not able to pay. The local Indian people. All the rest of them will be from other states. Nobody from Oklahoma except the Indian people."

Mr. Bridges pointed out that if the program and treatment proposed for the Chilocco center does not violate the laws of the State of Oklahoma, the state can not refuse to issue a Certification from the Mental Health Department.

He said he called Mr. John Wilson, of the Alcohol and Drug Authority of the State of California, who reported they "had no problems" with the organization. He presented several other instances of reference checking his department had made in regard to the matter, and reported that no negative information had been received.

Following the presentation by Mr. Bridges and Mr. Miles, there was a question and answer session.

In response to a question about prior notice, Mr. Miles pointed out that notice was published in the Newkirk Herald Journal in January of this year that the operators had applied for their Certificate of Need, well in advance of the hearing.

To a question concerning the unanimity of the decision to lease Chilocco, Miles said he couldn't answer, but that the documents his department received were in order. He said the Bureau of Indian Affairs had approved the lease contract, but that he didn't know if the decision by the Chilocco Development Authority had been unanimous or just by majority, and that he had no information concerning any internal problems of the CDA.

If the validity of the CDA's decision to lease Chilocco comes under question, then the matter would be in the jurisdiction of the Federal Courts, he said. One person suggested that the authority of a tribal chairman was in question due to an election dispute. Another questioner was assured that no Indian Health funds would be used, that no money from any govemmental agency would be used in establishing the center.

"They're a legitimate service, and they've received a legitimate hearing, and a legitimate authority to proceed." according to Mr. Miles, "If they do what they said they were gonna do, they'll be all right. And if they don't do it, there is a process that works that will usher them across the state line."

He added, "Let's just assume there is no such thing as Narconon, and all we're talking about is the Church of Scientology. What difference does it make?" If they do what they've applied for, and they do what they've been approved for, he said, then they have complied with state law.

"Now, if they start making it into something more than that, they start doing things that exceed their authority, if they violate the laws of the state in any manner than they have to answer for that."

"All we can go on is the history of what they've done, the record they've made in the United States and their statements they've made."

Miles said the terms of the agreement between the operator and the CDA were none of the state's business. "The business arrangements... are not a function of our commission."

In response to the question of law enforcement and state regulation, Miles said, "Well, first of all let me say that there is control. The Chilocco Development Authority and Narconon both, have placed themselves under the jurisdiction of the State of Oklahoma for operation of a health care facility."

"They are not functioning as Indian country," he said, "The county sheriff will have police jurisdiction there, State Highway Patrol will have jurisdiction there, State Bureau of Investigation will have jurisdiction there, the investigative staff of the State Department of Health... will have jurisdiction there. So it will not be without government controls."

They could have sought exclusion from state laws, and in light of court decisions recently, they could have gotten exclusion, he said, but instead, they voluntarily placed themselves under state jurisdiction.

Mr. Bridges responded to a question about payment for services at Chilocco. He said that all patients will be from out of state, except local Indians who do not have the ability to pay. "Nobody pays for it"

"They have provided 25% of the beds for the local Indian people, and nobody pays for it. They would be provided that opportunity."

"A prison was a possibility at one time at Chilocco," one member of the audience said, "but the problem was jurisdiction. They couldn't waive jurisdiction then, so I don't see how the state can change jurisdiction now."

Dave Baldwin, a member of the CDA answered that the State of Oklahoma couldn't afford the $17 million to construct the prison, jurisdiction was not the problem.

One lady said she would have preferred the prison, "I know something about the Church of Scientology, I know a lady and her son is in it - and I know what happened to them," she said. "That's why I am so concerned." She received a round of applause.

Another in the audience asked if patients would be restricted to the Chilocco facility. Mr. Miles said State law prohibits restricting movement of residents. Mr. Bridges said there were already three treatment plants in Kay County, and saw no reason to be concerned about the freedom of movement that Chilocco patients would have.

"Chilocco - they are somewhat isolated, these are not prisoners." Bridges said they are just people like us who have alcohol or drug problems, who have insurance. He said they just want to come here for treatment and go back home.

Mr. Bridges pointed out the CDA members in the audience, Dave Baldwin, Cynthia Stoner, and Mr. Mehojah. He noted that Bill Grant, who was not at the meeting, had told him just last week what a wonderful program Chilocco was. Bridges asked Mr. Mehojah to confirm Grant's attitude, which he did.

"A lot of the workers out there will be local Indian people, they're gonna be trained and brought on." Bridges said. He suggested there was nothing to fear from them.

Miles responded to a radio reporter' s question about the alleged connection between Narconon and the Church of Scientology: "the answer we received was that there was no direct relationship between the Church of Scientology and Narconon. That there were members of the Church of Scientology who had been involved in the creation of Narconon, but the two organizations are totally separate. We questioned whether or not the philosophy of L. Ron Hubbard would be used, because they were mentioned in the application. And it was pointed out that only the methods, not the philosophy, would be utilized. Those methods with the exception of sauna, are common to all alcohol and drug treatment procedures. The sauna, well we don't have any feel for it..."

He then referred to the lady who said she knew someone in the Church of Scientology, "I've shared the same experience and I think my reaction probably was very similar to hers." But that experience, he said, was not grounds for refusing permission to operate in the state.

Bridges told the radio reporter that counselors will be certified in Oklahoma "by a local certifying group that certifies all the alcohol and drug counselors."

Some of the members of the CDA told of being in a Narconon facility last week in downtown Los Angeles, and gave glowing reports of what they saw there. They told of people cured of addiction in only 10 weeks, and of a five year follow-up program.

Miles said that most Narconon facilities are out-patient clinics, and that the Los Angeles program is the only in-patient program in operation. He said the OHPC had checked with state people in several states while gathering information for the certificate of need hearing.

As an example of how the investigation works he told an anecdote about a nursing home operator who wished to locate in the state, but when investigation proved the man' s previous operations had been closed by health officials in six states, he was refused a certificate. "He had no standing because his history was all negative."

"We try to check deep enough to try to determine something about the character of the applicant," Miles added.

How many doctors, someone asked, and from where, and how often will the state check the facility? Bridges answered that most places like this contracted with local doctors. "Quite often," he responded to the query about inspection.

Miles added that the facility would be inspected at least 6 times a year, unannounced. He said the program meets the legal requirements of the state, and "that's the end of it."

Kaw Tribal Chairman Mehojah reviewed the history of Chilocco for the group, and said the CDA had been working to find a use for the land. He said they had tried to do what they felt best for the economic benefit of the Indian people, and to provide jobs. He said the contract they have entered into has a 5 year review clause, but that a corporation needs a long term lease in order to recoup their investment. He said the BIA had approved the contract as a sound document that would protect the Indians. He also told of his visit recently to the Los Angeles facility where he observed people undergoing treatment.

Following Mehojah's comments, Miles informed the group that if they had any reason to believe that the operators were not complying with state law that they should contact the State Attorney General, the Commissioner of Health, or the Commissioner of Mental Health.

Miles and Herald Journal publisher Bob Lobsinger sparred a bit over an editorial, for which Lobsinger offered apology. Then they sparred again over references in a recent story. Miles suggested Lobsinger had misread the material, but changed his mind when Lobsinger produced the magazine and showed him the passage in question.

This segment of the meeting ended, and commissioners proceeded to other items on the agenda.