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Media Articles - 1990s

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Narconon Near State Certification, Supporters Say

By Michael McNutt

Daily Oklahoman
October 20, 1991

Backers of Narconon Chilocco New Life Center near Newkirk say the drug and alcohol treatment center could win state certification by the end of the year.

Narconon Chilocco officials were hoping the center's treatment plan would be approved Friday in Oklahoma City.

But after a meeting and hearing that lasted almost 16 hours, the Oklahoma Board of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services postponed making a final decision until its Dec. 13 meeting.

Board members gave Narconon Chilocco a list of items the center has to take care of by that date to secure certification.

Most of the items deal with medical care for patients at the center, located six miles north of Newkirk.

Gary Smith, Narconon Chilocco president, said Saturday he is optimistic the checklist can be handled.

"It actually looks pretty good," he said. "The board appears to really want to work with us on this, so they must see the value of the program.

"We're pretty confident that ... everything should go fine and we should be certified. " While only a handful of mental health department staffers was present, about 100 Narconon supports heard the board announce its decision at 11:45 p.m. Friday.

Narconon supporters seemed in a jovial mood as board members met in closed session for two hours. Some sang, others joked around and quite a few took pictures.

Among those speaking for Narconon during the day was actress Kirstie Alley, who said a Narconon-type program she took in 1979 from a Los Angeles doctor cured her cocaine addiction.

Smith said Narconon Chilocco was given a list of 11 items to implement.

Those include allowing staff from the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services access to observe treatment of patients and training of staff, he said.

Harry Woods Jr., one of Narconon Chilocco's lawyers, said board members also are concerned about medical procedures at the facility, and want to see improvements in how medical records are kept and how a patient's health is monitored as they go through the Narconon's treatment of vitamins, sauna and exercise.

Narconon has billed its treatment as "totally drug-free" but its recently appointed medical director, Dr. Ray Stowers, told board members Friday that drugs are used on some patients in the withdrawal phase.

While Narconon officials said the facility maintains a "drug-free" philosophy, board members said advertising the facility as drug-free is misleading.

Board members said they were concerned no licensed person such as a nurse was on staff to handle the distribution of medicine.

Woods told board members Narconon Chilocco would agree to hire a nurse for that purpose.

Board members also were curious about training staff and patients - called students at Narconon Chilocco - received.

Sherry Armstrong, director of training, identified several books written by Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard as material used by patients and staff to deal with drug and alcohol addiction.

While most of the books did not mention either drugs or alcohol or how to avoid a recurrence, Armstrong, told Guy Hurst, an assistant state attorney general, that the books' purpose was to give patients positive feelings about themselves to reject mind-altering substances.

Some books Hurst showed her were too technical for patients, and others would be used only by Scientologists, she said.

"Most of the training is for people who want to be Scientologists," she said.

Armstrong said Narconon used Hubbard's "Purification Rundown" and "Clear Body, Clear Mind" books "and other material Ron's written on drug addiction and how to help people. "