Narconon Decision Draws Fire
By Michael McNutt
December 17, 1991
While supporters rallied behind a controversial Narconon alcohol and drug treatment center, state officials who denied its certification responded Monday to verbal attacks made by the facility's spokeswoman.
A statement released by the Oklahoma Board of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services said the seven-member board was "disappointed in the critical reaction and comments" of actress Kirstie Alley, the national spokeswoman for Narconon Chilocco New Life Center.
Alley, star of the TV show "Cheers," said Saturday that board members were biased against Narconon Chilocco.
Alley, who has praised Narconon's program and has traveled to Oklahoma several times to speak on behalf of the center near Newkirk, said board members had "no regard for the lives of drug addicts and ... are set on keeping society on drugs."
Alley made the comments after board members voted to deny certification and gave Narconon seven days to move out its 27 patients.
Board members, in a statement prepared by lawyer Patrick M. Ryan of Oklahoma City, said they were "not satisfied, based on the evidence presented in two days of hearings, that the Narconon program provided adequate safety to persons undergoing treatment at Narconon's facility. "
Board members in their decision Friday said the treatment offered by Narconon Chilocco is experimental and is not medically safe.
Alley, who went through a Narconon-style program 12 years ago, said, "There is no doubt in my mind that the arrogance and irresponsibility of the mental health board will not survive the outrage of the many thousands of parents, graduates and supporters from the scientific community this decision has triggered. "
Patients and staff members at Narconon Chilocco announced Monday they were starting a statewide petition drive to obtain support for the center.
Gary Smith, president of Narconon Chilocco, said more than 600 signatures already have been collected from residents "all over northern Oklahoma. "
"We are pooling our resources to fight this injustice in whatever arena required, and ultimately the truth will come out," Smith said in a prepared statement.
State officials received letters from several countries, written by people angry with the decision, said Guy Hurst, an assistant state attorney general who presented evidence for mental health department staff members during two days of hearings.
Harry Woods Jr., an Oklahoma City lawyer representing Narconon Chilocco, said he will file an appeal of the board's decision this week in Kay County District Court.
Health department lawyer Rob Cole said he will file motions asking that his agency be allowed to be heard in the case.
"We can't have a facility that is theoretically dangerous to the residents there continuing to operate," he said.