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Media Articles - 1990s

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Narconon Granted Stay for Appeal

By Michael McNutt

Saturday Oklahoman
May 16, 1992

Narconon Chilocco New Life Center, ordered by a district judge and state officials to close, won court protection Friday to remain open for 10 more days.

Meanwhile, an Oklahoma County district judge said it may take several weeks for him to review materials submitted in the ongoing controversy surrounding the center. And it was disclosed Friday that the center has been given a 90-day conditional license by the Tonkawa tribe's newly formed regulatory agency.

Kay County District Judge Neal Beekman, who earlier this week issued a permanent injunction to close Narconon Chilocco, on Friday issued a stay of his order for 10 days to give Narconon lawyers time to appeal.

But Beekman denied Narconon's request for a new trial.

Harry Woods Jr., a lawyer for Narconon Chilocco, said he will ask the Oklahoma Supreme Court to overturn Beekman's permanent injunction and allow the center to remain open.

The recent formation of an agency by the Tonkawa tribe to govern treatment programs on Indian land, and the agency's subsequent conditional licensing of Narconon Chilocco, will be brought to the Supreme Court's attention, he said.

Such an agency had not been formed when Beekman presided over a court hearing Feb. 27. At that hearing, state officials asked Beekman to close Narconon Chilocco because it never was licensed and lost its bid for a license.

Narconon Chilocco began accepting patients in February 1990.

After a series of legal delays, the state Board of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services in December denied certification for the center and ordered it closed.

The Tonkawa tribe's Native American Drug and Alcohol Program Services granted a 90-day license for Narconon Chilocco earlier this month, Woods said.

"That will give them time to fully check the (Narconon Chilocco) program and satisfy itself that under the regulations that they have that it's appropriate for a longer-term certification," he said.

Woods said approval by a tribal agency that has jurisdiction over Narconon Chilocco should pre-empt any state action and should make moot the issue that Narconon Chilocco does not have a state license.

As of Friday, the center had 11 patients, all Indians, said Narconon Chilocco president Gary Smith. Most of their cost for the program, about $ 21,000 each, is paid for through scholarships from donors.

Friday in Oklahoma City, District Judge Leamon Freeman allowed attorneys for the state mental health board and Narconon to briefly summarize their positions.

Pat Ryan, attorney for the mental health board, said the judge will decide if the board's decision is to be upheld.

Ryan described what he said were hazardous conditions inside a sauna at the center.

He recounted stories concerning allegations patients with alcohol problems were advised that it would be OK for them to drink alcohol once they completed treatment.

Woods countered that leading national experts had toured the center and rated the conditions excellent.

Staff writer Charolette Aiken contributed to this story.