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Media Articles - 1990s

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Agency Might Participate In Certification

By Michael McNutt

Daily Oklahoman
July 18, 1991

A state agency banned last year from participating in the certification process of a substance abuse center near Newkirk may be allowed to take part in next month's scheduled hearing on Narconon Chilocco New Life Center.

Lawyers with the state attorney general's office and Narconon Chilocco are expected to argue that issue next week in Oklahoma County District Court.

Oklahoma County District Judge John M. Amick recently overturned a temporary restraining order that blocked the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services from taking part in Narconon's certification process.

Narconon has appealed and Amick is expected to preside in a hearing next week over whether Narconon lawyers can challenge his ruling.

If the court order is lifted, administrators with the state mental health department could take part in Narconon's certification hearing, scheduled for Aug. 9 in Oklahoma City.

"At some point, the staff has to make a decision one way or the other," said Guy Hurst, deputy chief of the civil division in the state attorney general's office.

"What the law says is the board - the people who grant the license and actually make the decision - those folks have to be unbiased. "

The state Board of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, which will preside over next month's Narconon hearing, will decide whether to certify the treatment program used at Narconon Chilocco.

The substance abuse center has been operating without a license since February 1990.

Because Narconon lawyers went to court and obtained a court order blocking the board from using Mental Health Department staff recommendations, board members have had to hire an expert outside the agency to evaluate Narconon's program.

The court order also prohibited the board from using the state attorney general's office for legal help because it also represents the mental health agency and could pose a conflict of interest.

Narconon officials successfully removed the mental health department staff from taking part in Narconon Chilocco's certification process last November by claiming the state was prejudiced against them.

Oklahoma County District Judge Leamon Freeman ruled that the staff's recommendation that the state mental health board reject certification was biased.

Narconon officials claimed that the state was biased because West in the past urged the state to deny licensing the proposed 75-bed treatment facility because of Narconon's ties with the Church of Scientology, which some consider a cult.

A court order allows Narconon Chilocco to treat up to 40 patients at a time while it awaits its certification hearing.