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Media Articles - 1990s

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Storm over cult's alcoholic patient

By ESTHER OXFORD

The Independent, 31 May 1994


An alcoholic who was sent on a detoxification programme linked with the controversial Church of Scientology after a council blunder is to stay on indefinitely.

The woman, in her forties, turned to Tower Hamlets Council for help eight weeks ago. She was placed in the Narconon detoxification centre in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, but it has since been discovered that the programme is linked to the Church of Scientology, and run on principles laid down by L Ron Hubbard, the church's founder.

Tower Hamlets has now cut off the 1,200 funding. 'When I saw the name L. Ron Hubbard in the centre's brochure I realised it was not what I thought it was, said Andy Bullivant, who works for the Tower Hamlets Association of Alcohol Services and Problems (THAASP).

But Narconon says she will stay there. 'She is very happy here. She looks and feels marvellous, said Georgina Newlands, who works at the centre. Unless the woman chooses to leave the centre, the council's hands are tied. 'Short of bundling her into a car, there is little we can do, said Mr Bullivant.

Tower Hamlets council says the blunder is 'a genuine mistake. Narconon was listed in a national directory published by Alcohol Concern, an established charity. There was no mention of L Ron Hubbard. 'If we had known of the link we wouldn't have sent her there.'

Although her session at the centre was to last just 10 days, the woman has decided to stay there. Last week she was summoned for assessment by Tower Hamlets council. Sonia Francis-Mills, from THAASP, sat in on the meeting. 'The whole conversation was her pleading to stay at Narconon, she said. The woman is due for reassessment this week. 'We are saying, 'we will give you every assistance we can. We will find you appropriate and continuing care - but not from Narconon', said Mr Bullivant.

At the moment Narconon trustees are paying for the woman's treatment. 'Narconon thinks it gives them credibility having Tower Hamlets as a so-called client, Mr Bullivant said.

Ms Newlands, of Narconon, denies this. 'The centre is committed to bringing in people who are low down in life. We try to rebuild their confidence until they are ready to go out into the world again.

'L Ron Hubbard founded our de-tox programme. It is far more effective than any other method of drug rehabilitation.

'If this patient decides she wants to stay with us, once she is fully recovered, she may do so.

'Many of our patients decide to join our staff. For some, the outside world is just too frightening to confront.'