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Media Articles - 1990s

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12 January 2003
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Narconon Hearing Moved to Ponca City Because of Parade

The Oklahoman
October 6, 1990

NEWKIRK - A planned parade and demonstration in support of a substance abuse center near here has prompted authorities to move next week's state hearing on the facility out of town.

The Department of Mental Health had scheduled a public hearing for 1 p.m. Tuesday at Newkirk High School's auditorium. Purpose of the hearing was for discussion of the application by Narconon Chilocco New Life Center to have its program certified.

But Ray Sinor, Newkirk school superintendent, said he was concerned about the noise and hoopla a planned parade by Narconon would have on students in school.

"We didn't anticipate a large group here," Sinor said. "Our parking is all taken up by our students. At 3:15, all of our buses show up here behind the area where the auditorium is and parents are there with cars to pick up kids.

"We thought this was going to be a small meeting. We didn't anticipate there was going to be a parade and things of this sort," Sinor said.

So mental health department officials scurried to find another site in Newkirk, not an easy task in this northern Oklahoma town of about 2,500 people.

State officials wanted a public building which is easily accessible and could handle an anticipated crowd of about 100.

By mid-morning Friday, the old Catholic school gymnasium, used occasionally by Newkirk public schools for athletic events, was being considered.

But it was scratched when state officials found "it was going to be kind of a chore to get that set up," said Rosemary Brown, mental health department spokeswoman.

With noon approaching, it became a possibility Tuesday's scheduled hearing would have to be postponed because of notice requirements, she said.

However, a suitable building was found by noon in Ponca City, about 13 miles south of here.

Brown said the Narconon public hearing would be at 1 p.m. Tuesday in the West Chapel of the Marland Estate complex in Ponca City.

State mental health department officials did not want to postpone the hearing because they are working under a close timetable. Staff members want to make recommendation on Narconon's application to the State Mental Health Board at its Oct. 18 meeting.

A district judge was asked by the state health department to shut down Narconon Chilocco because it had been operating without state licenses since February. Last month, the judge ordered the mental health department to make required inspections and hold necessary hearings in time for the October meeting of the state mental health board.

On-site inspections were made last month, and Narconon has until Wednesday to respond to deficiencies found in record-keeping and administrative matters.

The on-site report, Narconon's response and comments made during next week's hearing will be incorporated into staff members' recommendation to mental health board members.