State Agency Ordered to Act on Narconon Certification;
Substance Abuse Center Prohibited From Accepting New Patients
By Michael McNutt
September 8, 1990
A judge on Friday ordered the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health to determine by next month whether a substance abuse center operating without state approval should be certified to remain open.
In the meantime, the Narconon Chilocco New Life Center will be allowed to operate, but is prohibited from accepting new patients, according to an order issued by District Judge Neal Beekman.
Thirty-five patients are at the facility, located on the grounds of the old Chilocco Indian School, said Bill Burkett, an Oklahoma City lawyer representing Narconon.
Friday's hearing, attended by more than 60 people, was held after the state Department of Health sought a temporary injunction to shut down the facility.
Beekman issued his order after both sides came to an agreement during more than two hours of dicussion in his chambers.
Rob Cole, a lawyer with the state health department, said officials with the agency will have access to Narconon records to make sure no additional patients are accepted until the facility wins state certification and licensing.
"I don't envision them violating the court order," he said.
"Significant sanctions would be imposed if they violate the court order."
Tim Bowles, a lawyer with Narconon's offices in Los Angeles, refused to comment after the hearing.
But Burkett said he was confident Narconon could meet the mental health department's certification requirements.
"We don't see any problems with that," he said. If Narconon is turned down in its certification bid, "then it's a new problem," he said.
The facility, operated by Narconon International, has been treating patients since February without a license from the Department of Health or certification from the Department of Mental Health.
Narconon originally contended the facility was exempt from state law because it is on Indian land. But Narconon's agreement to comply with Beekman's order seems to make that argument moot.
Narconon last month applied to have its program certified by the mental health department. An agency spokeswoman said then that Narconon's program could not be inspected sooner than November and that the State Mental Health Board would not act until January.
Beekman ordered the mental health department to inspect Narconon by the end of this month and have its staff make a recommendation on certification at the board's October meeting.
Janie Hipp, an assistant state attorney general assigned to the mental health department, said the state agency can meet Beekman's schedule.
Hipp said people wanting a public hearing would have to make a written request to the mental health department after the staff recommendations are released but before the October board meeting.
Most of the people attending Friday's hearing said they were against Narconon primarily because of its ties with the Church of Scientology, which some consider a cult.
"I would like to see Narconon removed from Kay County, the state of Oklahoma and the United States," said one man, who like most others would speak only on terms of anonymity. "I do not like the Church of Scientology."
If Narconon wins certification from the mental health department, it still must be licensed by the health department.