McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

August 28, 2006

Narconon set to open detox center

By Doug Russell

Coming soon: A medical detoxification unit brought to you by the folks of Narconon.

Narconon is a substance abuse treatment and prevention program that was founded largely on the teachings of Science Fiction author L. Ron Hubbard. The program has been operating successfully in Pittsburg County since a group known as the Association for Better Living and Education bought the Choctaw Nation’s holdings at Arrowhead State Park, including the 108-room lodge and 52 cabins, in 1999.

Now the organization is coming to McAlester. Actually, it’s already here.

Narconon has bought the old Ramada Inn (which was once a Holiday Inn) at 1500 S. George Nigh Expwy. and is refurbishing it to open a detoxification center and training center.

Interior work has been going on for months, but since no true remodeling was being done, no city permit was needed at the time, according to Dennis Lalli, city building inspector.

Cleo McLaughlin, senior vice president of Narconon Arrowhead, said workers initially had to remove asbestos from some of the rooms.

Now it appears the organization has gone a step farther, since it applied for — and received — a $152,000 remodeling permit on Aug. 4.

When finished, the remodeled center will have some areas strictly for clients, such as the detoxification and housing portions, and others that will be open to the public. “We’re going to have a Starbucks and an eating place,” McLaughlin said. “Those will be publicly accessible.”

So will some of the conference and seminar rooms of the former hotel.

But you won’t be able to wander around just anywhere.

“Confidentiality is very important,” McLaughlin said. “We sometimes have some very famous people come through our facilities, but even those who are not famous may not want people to know they have some kind of substance abuse problem.”

The McAlester detoxification facility will be primarily for people who are addicted to prescription medications, she added. “A lot of professional people, doctors, lawyers and the like, have those kinds of addictions,” she said. “When someone is addicted to prescription drugs, they usually have quite a few other problems as well.”

At present, if a Narconon client needs medical monitoring while coming off drugs, he or she is sent to Henryetta, McLaughlin said, adding the McAlester facility will be better suited to client needs.

“We’re really a kind of wellness center,” McLaughlin said. “We rebuild the body as we withdraw them from the toxins they’ve put in their bodies.”

Once initial detoxification is completed, the clients will go to the Arrowhead facility for a full program, she added.

In addition to the medical detoxification unit, the new center will be an “international training center” for people interested in the Narconon program.

For example, in recent months there have been people from Israel and Egypt at the Narconon Arrowhead facility to learn more about the program, McLaughlin said.

Contact Doug Russell at drussell@mcalesternews.com