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Media Articles - 1990s

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Narconon Chilocco's Future Rests in Hands of Landlord

By Michael McNutt

Sunday Oklahoman
February 9, 1992

NEWKIRK - Pending any eleventh-hour court rulings, state officials will succeed this week in getting an unlicensed drug and alcohol abuse center to stop treating patients.

But it eventually will be up to the center's landlord as to how long Narconon Chilocco New Life Center will keep its doors open in Oklahoma.

While a court order has been issued preventing Narconon Chilocco from treating patients after Monday, state officials aren't planning to swoop down and close it.

Narconon Chilocco has said it plans to stay in business by training staff persons, which apparently is not in violation of any state law or regulation, said Guy Hurst, a lawyer with the state attorney general's office.

Hurst said he doesn't expect any confrontation at Narconon Chilocco this week when mental health department officials visit the center to make sure the patients are gone.

However, Narconon Chilocco, which has been treating patients without state approval the past two years, would be violating its lease agreement with the school's landlord, the Chilocco Development Authority, once it stopped treating patients, an official said.

Bob Chapman, chairman of the authority, said the lease requires Narconon Chilocco to only treat patients.

"There's no provisions for training of any kind," he said.

An immediate problem for state officials is to find out if all of the patients at Narconon Chilocco have been removed and to know that new arrivals are trainees and not patients.

State officials never were given a roster of patients at Narconon Chilocco when the Oklahoma Board of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services in December denied the facility's certification and ordered it shut down because of safety concerns for patients.

Narconon Chilocco officials testified during hearings before the board that staff and patients are taught from the same books and go through the same program. State officials might have to depend only on the word of Narconon Chilocco officials on whether persons are trainees or patients.

Gary Smith, Narconon Chilocco's president, last week gave no indication that the facility would continue to treat patients after Monday's deadline.

If it does, Narconon Chilocco faces a contempt of court charge.

Smith said he remains optimistic the facility's lawyers will prevail when their appeal of the mental health board's decision is held in May.

Efforts by Narconon Chilocco to remain open until the appeal could be heard have been struck down three times in the past two weeks, with the facility under a court order to remove its remaining clients on Monday.

Smith said earlier he expected Narconon Chilocco, which sought approval to operate a 75-bed facility, would comply with the court order.

While the center waited for its appeal to be heard, it would shift its emphasis from treating patients - who each paid an average of $ 21,000 for a three-month treatment - to training persons in the use of Narconon's program, he said.

Last week, the center had 16 trainees on its campus, the old Chilocco Indian School, about six miles north of Newkirk.

Eventually, he said, the center could accommodate up to 125 trainees at a time.

Chapman said how to handle Narconon Chiloco will be up to members of the Chilocco Development Authority, which includes one representative each from the Pawnee, Ponca, Kaw, Otoe-Missouria and Tonkawa tribes.

Narconon Chilocco, in Chapman's opinion, is in violation of its lease as soon as its remaining 13 patients are taken off the campus.

He said, however, he did not think the authority would try to evict Narconon Chilocco until after the facility's appeal is heard in court.

"It depends if there is anything legal going on," Chapman said.