Drug, Alcohol Clinic to Occupy Indian School
May 6, 1989
A group that follows some of the teachings of Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard is setting up a national drug and alcohol rehabilitation program at the former Chilocco Indian School in northern Oklahoma, and that has some area residents worried.
The Newkirk City Commission has scheduled a Monday night informational meeting about the Narconon International project, which over 25 years could bring as much as $16 million in lease payments to five Indian tribes in the Chilocco Development Authority.
"There definitely appears to be a basis for concern," said Garry Bilger, mayor of Newkirk. "I think there are some questions that need to be answered here. ... What will they be doing out there? That's the concern."
At the same time, Bilger said, officials are glad to see fix-up work commencing at the former boarding school, whose 4,200-acre campus north of town has been vacant since 1980.
After the 96-year-old school closed, the Bureau of Indian Affairs declared it surplus property. The location had been mentioned as a potential prison site.
The proposed center and its affiliation became a topic of discussion in recent days after stories in two Kay County newspapers. John Duff, director of Narconon International in Los Angeles, noted Narconon has been involved in drug rehabilitation since 1966 and has sought appropriate state licensing.
The Oklahoma Health Planning Commission approved Narconon's application in January, granting approval for an initial 75 beds at Chilocco. The application sought a license for 150 beds and projected growth to 400 beds.
Narconon projects initial employment of 68 people, some recruited locally, when operations begin as early as this summer.
"We've worked through all the proper lines. We've really made ourselves available to answer any questions," Duff said.
Duff said Narconon is not a part of the Church of Scientology, although the church "has been a supporter" of Narconon clinics.
The Chilocco center will draw on Narconon outpatient clinics in Los Angeles, Denver, Boston, Baton Rouge, La., and Vancouver and Toronto in Canada, Duff said. He said private practitioners also will refer patients.
Some beds will be available for use by local Indians, Duff said, focusing on treatment for inhalant abuse. Drug education efforts also will be offered to the community in cooperation with existing programs, he said.
The Narconon program uses "cold turkey" withdrawal from drugs and alcohol.
Hubbard, who died in 1986, established the church as a combination of Eastern and Western religions.
In the mid-1970s, the church claimed 6 million members and earned $100 million annually. It has since been beset by former members' lawsuits alleging fraud and mental abuse.