State Agency Inspecting Narconon
By Michael McNutt
October 21, 1992
NEWKIRK - An unlicensed drug and alcohol treatment center is close to winning state approval after more than two years of toil and controversy.
Inspectors from the Oklahoma State Health Department visited the Narconon Chilocco New Life Center on Tuesday to assess the conditions of buildings, food and sanitary services, and to ensure that fire, safety and health requirements are being met.
Brent Van Meter, the health department's deputy commissioner for special health services, said results of the inspection should be known by the end of the week.
Narconon Chilocco, located on the campus of the old Chilocco Indian School about six miles north of Newkirk, is seeking approval for a 75-bed treatment center. It already has announced plans for expansion that would allow 150 patients. The expansion is pending state approval.
A health department license is Narconon's final barrier for state approval. It's expected the facility will meet the health department's guidelines.
Van Meter said the health department proceeded with Tuesday's inspection because the Oklahoma Board of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services issued an order last week that resolved a gray area on whether Narconon Chilocco met that agency's standards.
The mental health board in December denied certification to Narconon Chilocco, finding fault with its treatment program and calling it medically unsafe and experimental.
But in August, the mental health board granted Narconon Chilocco an exemption from certification because its program was accredited by a private agency, the Commission for Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.
The state health department sought a written order to clarify the mental health board's action.
An order signed by mental health board chairwoman Dorothy Stanislaus says state law requires private treatment centers to comply with medical and professional standards determined by the mental health board or by regulations from two agencies, one of which is the Commission for Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.
The accreditation runs through June 1993, the mental health order says.
The exemption from mental health board certification will continue as long as Narconon Chilocco qualifies by getting accredited by the Commission for Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.
Stanislaus notes in her order, however, that the exemption from certification for Narconon Chilocco does not change the mental health board's December decision not to certify the facility.
Narconon Chilocco began accepting patients in February 1990. It did not seek state approval, and the state health department sought a court order to shut it down.
Narconon Chilocco then filed suit against the mental health department claiming inspectors were biased against the facility.
Narconon Chilocco won court approval to continue to treat patients while lawyers sought to reach a settlement.
Last October, several legal issues were settled that allowed the mental health board to hold a hearing on whether to certify Narconon Chilocco. Another hearing was held in December before board members voted to deny the center's application.
Narconon Chilocco went back to court and won approval to continue to treat patients while it appealed the mental health board's decision.
In August, Narconon Chilocco agreed to drop its lawsuits against the mental health board if its application for exemption from certification was approved.
Many of Newkirk's residents are opposed to Narconon Chilocco's operation, largely because of its connection to the Church of Scientology.