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Media Articles - 1990s

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14 January 2003
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Addict Describes Treatment, Flight From Narconon

Daily Oklahoman
July 29, 1990

A heroin and cocaine addict says he walked away from an unlicensed substance abuse center near here because of its unorthodox approaches to helping people kick the habit.

John J. Carraro, 32, said guards with clubs tried to bring him back in handcuffs when he ran away from the Narconon Chilocco New Life Center after spending six days at the facility last month.

Carraro, whose mother said he has been addicted to heroin and cocaine the past 10 years, said that while he was there, he did a lot of drills and drank a supplement called "Cal-Mag." He said he left before being required to spend at least five hours a day in a sauna.

Amy Carraro said Friday that her son now is in a church-affiliated drug treatment program near their hometown of Malvern, N.Y.

She said she regretted sending her son to Narconon the day after he left when she received brochures that said the facility used treatment procedures developed by the late L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Church of Scientology.

"When I saw it was founded by L. Ron Hubbard, I almost fell off my chair," she said. "They duped us, they fooled us and took our money."

Amy Carraro said Narconon wanted a $12,000 payment for its three-month treatment plan, but she paid only half that amount up front. She planned to pay the rest in 45 days.

But after talking to her son, she said, "I wouldn't send anyone there (to Narconon) if it was for nothing."

She said her son left quickly after entering Narconon's program because it was not like treatment plans he encountered at previous stays at three drug treatment centers. He also was concerned the facility had no medical staff, she said.

"We feel very lucky that he had a sixth sense about this place," she said and added that her family is trying to get back some of the $6,000.

Narconon spokesman Bruce Pyle said officials at the facility plan to refund some money to the Carraros.

Pyle said John Carraro did not stay long enough at the facility to understand the treatment program.

"There's absolutely nothing wrong with the program other than the fact that he didn't do it, which could account for his current condition," Pyle said.

The guards, he said, approached Carraro apprehensively because they didn't know he was a patient. Patients are free to leave whenever they wish, he said.

"This isn't a prison camp here," Pyle said. "We're in the business of helping people who want to get off drugs."

Carraro left Narconon June 29, at the same time the facility was starting a three-day grand opening ceremony.

The facility's program still is not certified by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and is not licensed by the Oklahoma Department of Health.

Lawyers for Narconon said they will apply for state approval, but believe the state does not have authority to regulate the facility because it is on Indian land.

Narconon has applied for licensing from the health department, but has not applied for certification from the mental health department, which must approve the program before the health department can issue a license.

State officials have asked District Attorney Joe Wideman to close the facility for operating without state approval.

Wideman said state licensing or certification is not needed because Narconon officials told him only Indian clients were being treated at the facility, which is located at the old Chilocco Indian school north of Newkirk.

But Carraro is not Indian. He is German-Italian, his mother said.

Carraro said he saw about 25 patients while at Narconon, but only one or two were Indian. Pyle said he was unable to give an exact count on the number of patients at the facility Friday, but said it was far short of its 75-bed capacity. He said most but not all were Indians.

Amy Carraro said a family friend who knew of her son's drug problems recommended Narconon.

She said she talked by phone with a Narconon representative who asked few questions about her son's drug and medical history.

Carraro said that after arriving at Narconon, he was taken to a doctor at Arkansas City, Kan., who gave him a routine physical. There was no doctor at Narconon, and when he told staff he tested positive four years ago for the HIV virus, which could lead to AIDS, they told him not to tell anyone else about it, he said. He is unsure if he got the virus from needle use or from a blood transfusion during surgery.

Carraro said he was surprised at the lack of discipline and structure: Residents regularly walked through the dining room without shirts, shoes or socks and used plates and glasses as ash trays.

"I was alarmed over the lack of organization between staff members, the lack of control or ability to discipline "clients,' the low awareness of staff members in general," he wrote in a letter describing his experiences.

Carraro said he didn't take any belongings with him when he left.

But before he could leave, security guards caught up with him and tried to handcuff him to take him back when a staff member came along and told the guards to leave.

The staff member and Carraro went to a convenience store for a drink and the staff member became upset when Carraro bought a beer.

Carraro said he went to Newkirk because the staff member told him not to go there.

Once in Newkirk, Carraro found people willing to help him, and bought him dinner and put him in a local motel. The next day they told him to talk with Bob Lobsinger, publisher of the Newkirk Herald-Journal, who has written a number of stories about Narconon and its ties with the Church of Scientology.

Lobsinger called Carraro's parents, and drove him to Wichita, Kan., where Carraro's parents booked him a return flight to New York.

Amy Carraro said Narconon officials returned her son's clothing at her expense.

"They sent it out the most expensive way they could, overnight express," she said.