Narconon Claims It's Not Subject to State Regulation
By Michael McNutt
July 11, 1990
Operators of a new substance abuse center near here apparently will challenge the state's authority to regulate the facility, according to a letter sent by their lawyer Thursday to state officials.
Their contention is that the state does not have the authority because the facility is on Indian land.
However, officials of Narconon Chilocco New Life Center plan to voluntarily apply for certification from the Oklahoma Mental Health Department, and licensing from the Oklahoma Department of Health, the letter written by former state Sen. Marvin York said.
"Narconon does, nevertheless, respect the expertise of the state departments of mental health and health, and intends to voluntarily submit applications for certification and licensing to the appropriate departments," York's letter said.
"Our voluntary consent to state jurisdiction shall in no way be construed as a waiver of any rights arising from the facility's location on trust lands or otherwise."
Rosemary Brown, a spokeswoman for the state mental health department, said the state agency now will make a formal written request to Kay County District Attorney Joe Wideman to take appropriate action.
"It's our obligation to refer those situations where someone appears to be delivering services without certification and this appears to be one of those situations," she said.
Narconon officials could challenge Wideman's authority to take any action because the facility is on Indian land. That could result in the issue being taken to court.
The state requires substance abuse centers to first receive certification from state mental health officials, then obtain licensing from state health officials.
The certification process could include a public hearing if requested by residents in the area. Some residents oppose the center because of Narconon's ties with the Church of Scientology. The residents have said they want a state hearing on the facility's proposed treatment program and other activities.
Narconon was issued a certificate of need by the State Health Department early last year. During a public meeting in Newkirk last year, Narconon officials told residents the facility would seek all necessary state licenses and comply with state regulations.
York, in his letter, said Narconon "is not required to obtain certification or licensing from the state of Oklahoma by virtue of its location on federal trust land held for the benefit of five Indian tribes comprising the Chilocco Development Authority."
Narconon's response is no surprise, authorities said. Narconon made the same argument in its request to the Oklahoma Department of Health last month for an extension of its certificate of need.
And Narconon officials said the same thing when state health officials last month asked Wideman to look into reports patients were being treated at the Narconon facility, even though its program was not certified.
Representatives of the facility, located at the old Chilocco Indian school north of Newkirk, told Wideman that no state licensing or certification was needed because only Indian patients were being treated.
At that time Wideman agreed, but asked Narconon officials to let him know when they expanded their operation to non-Indians.
On June 20, mental health department officials wrote Narconon asking representatives of the facility to apply for state certification within 10 days of receipt of the letter, and eventually Narconon representatives were told that July 10 was the deadline for submitting an application, Brown said.
A few minutes before 5 p.m. Tuesday, York's letter was hand-delivered to the mental health department, Brown said.