MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

August 9, 2013

Narconon outlet without state detox certificate

It expired in June; center plans to seek new one

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A medical detox center in Pittsburg County that is based on the teachings of the Church of Scientology has lost its temporary state certification to conduct medical detox services, a spokesman for Oklahoma’s top substance abuse agency said Friday.

The Narconon Arrowhead facility in McAlester did not meet the state’s requirements to obtain full certification to conduct medical detox services, said Jeffrey Desmukes, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health Substance Abuse Services.

“Their temporary permit for operation has expired,” Desmukes said. The facility, which opened in 2011, lost its temporary certification at the end of June, Desmukes said.

An attorney for Narconon, David Riggs of Tulsa, said in an email that the expiration date for the facility’s medical detox permit expired before the facility could meet all of the requirements for a permanent license.

“Narconon plans to file a new application for certification and intends to reopen Arrowhead Medical Detox by the end of the year,” Riggs said. Meanwhile. Narconon Arrowhead continues to offer rehabilitation services to those in need, Riggs said.

The Arrowhead facility is one of two that are operated in the county by the nonprofit Narconon, which is rooted in the teachings of Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. Besides the medical detox site in McAlester, Narconon operates a non-medical drug rehabilitation center in Canadian where three patients have died in the past two years.

Stacy Dawn Murphy, 20, was found dead in a detox room on July 19, 2012. Three months earlier, Hillary Holten, 21, was found dead in her bed on April 11, 2012. On Oct. 26, 2011, Gabriel Graves, 32, was found dead in his bed at the facility.

Murphy’s death last year led to preliminary investigations by law enforcement authorities, including the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

OSBI spokeswoman Jessica Brown said Friday her agency is no longer actively investigating the facility.

Pittsburg County District Attorney Farley Ward did not return a telephone call concerning whether his office is investigating the deaths.

Lawsuits have been filed by the families of each of the Narconon patients who died. In addition, the Oklahoma Legislature passed legislation requiring drug rehabilitation centers like Narconon’s to be certified by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, giving the state oversight over the facilities.

Narconon uses saunas, vitamins, mild exercise and a special diet in its three-month treatment, which is based on techniques developed by Hubbard, who founded Scientology in the 1950s.

According to the center’s website, no drugs are used in the entire Narconon drug rehabilitation program. Instead, patients are given nutritional supplements to help their bodies detoxify naturally.

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