Narconon Clinic Waging Battle Over Semantics
By Michael McNutt
September 30, 1992
An unlicensed drug and alcohol abuse center struggling for more than two years to gain state approval can refer to a dictionary to understand the latest barrier: getting an exemption is not the same as being approved.
Officials with Narconon Chilocco New Life Center thought a state license would be forthcoming after last month's decision by the Oklahoma Board of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to exempt the Kay County facility from certification requirements.
But the exemption apparently is meaningless to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, which has the authority to grant a license which would allow Narconon Chilocco to operate legally in the state.
"Mental health has to tell us that this place meets the requirements to be licensed," Brent Van Meter, the health department's deputy commissioner for special health services, said Tuesday. "We're not going to budge until we get something." Normally, the mental health board does that through granting certification to a facility, he said.
Because Narconon Chilocco has no certification, the health department is asking Narconon Chilocco to return to the mental health department and get a letter stating that the center's treatment plan complies with state regulations and guidelines, Van Meter said.
"If they produce a document that is transmitted to us by the department of mental health that says that this facility is in compliance with the provisions of the statutes and the mental health code, then they will in all likelihood be licensed," he said.
Michael St. Aman, director of public information at Narconon Chilocco, said the treatment center's lawyers and mental health department attorneys have been meeting to work out the semantics.
The mental health board granted an exemption from certification to Narconon Chilocco because the facility was accredited in June by a private organization, the Commission for Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.
Narconon Chilocco began accepting patients in February 1990.
After several delays, mental health board members in December denied certification to Narconon Chilocco, labeling the center's treatment program medically unsafe and experimental.