McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

August 18, 2012

Sen. Ivester on Narconon Arrowhead -“Clearly something isn’t right"

By Jeanne LeFlore
Staff Writer

McALESTER — After several deaths at Narconon Arrowhead, an Oklahoma Senator said he wants legislation to regulate the facility’s practices. 

On Friday, Sen. Tom Ivester D-OK 26th District  told the McAlester News- Capital he will work with officials at Oklahoma’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to author legislation aimed at regulating questionable practices at Narconon Arrowhead.
Located in Canadian, Narconon Arrowhead is a nonprofit drug and alcohol rehabilitation center affiliated with the Church of Scientology that has been under investigation since the July 19 death of Stacy Dawn Murphy, 20, of Owasso. 
Since her death, the investigation has expanded to include three other deaths; Hillary Holten, 21, who was found dead at Narconon Arrowhead in April, and Gabriel Graves, 32, who died at the facility in October, along with the 2009 death of Kaysie Dianne Werninck, 28, according to Pittsburg County Sheriff Joel Kerns.
On Friday, Ivester said he was outraged on learning of the recent deaths. “Three people walked into the Narconon Arrowhead facility expecting to leave with a new outlook on life but ended up losing their lives,” Ivester said. “My heart goes out to the parents of these young people.
“They trusted Narconon to give their children the help they needed to get clean. Instead they got a phone call telling them their child would not be coming home alive.”  
Ivester said he believes the state could impose strict regulations of unorthodox drug treatment programs, like the one being run at Narconon Arrowhead. “There, patients are exposed five hours in a sauna and take large doses of the vitamin niacin,” Ivester said.
“There are proven treatment regimens to help people deal with the illness of addiction and we have a duty to ensure that programs being offered within the borders of Oklahoma are strongly regulated to ensure the utmost safety for these vulnerable patients and their families,” he said. 
In a press release, the Sayre lawmaker said a search has revealed 15 lawsuits against the facility on Lake Eufaula.
“Clearly something isn’t right and we have a moral obligation to do everything in our power to end this predatory business being run by the Church of Scientology disguised as drug treatment,” Iverster said.
And he said he will not to stop until legislation is “signed into law ending these senseless deaths and the exploitation of desperate family members.”
“This is a disgusting business that preys on desperate family members and their sick loved ones, scamming them out of thousands of dollars with the promise of providing hope and new life,” Ivester said. “It’s a disgrace to have these people operating in the state of Oklahoma. Too many lives have been lost under their watch.”
Ivester said he hopes other legislators will join him in getting this legislation written and passed.
Narconon Arrowhead Director Gary Smith could not be reached for comment.
Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.