McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Police/Courts

March 8, 2013

Narconon Arrowhead top exec loses drug counseling certification

McALESTER — Narconon Arrowhead’s top executive and several of his employees have had a counseling certification revoked by the National Association of Forensic Counselors, officials say.

Karla Taylor, president of NAFC, confirmed Narconon Arrowhead CEO Gary Smith’s certification and those of several Narconon employees was revoked earlier this month.

Narconon Arrowhead is a non-profit drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Canadian that has been the subject of an ongoing investigation after three of its patients were found dead in less than a year.

Taylor said she couldn’t confirm the specific reason for the revocation.

“All members of the NAFC must abide by the NAFC ethical standards as well as the ethical codes within their profession,” Taylor said.

She also said because the certifications were revoked and not suspended that Smith would not be eligible to be recertified.

Jeff Dismukes, public information officer for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, said he was aware of the revocation but he could not comment on whether it will affect Narconon’s certification with the state.

“Our investigation hasn’t completed,” Dismukes said.

Narconon Arrowhead was under investigation by the ODMHSAS, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the Pittsburg County Sheriff’s Office since the July 19 death of Stacy Dawn Murphy, 20, of Owasso.

 Murphy was found dead in a detox room at the facility, according to Pittsburg County Sheriff Joel Kerns.

The investigation later expanded to include three other deaths, those of Hillary Holten, 21, who was found dead at Narconon Arrowhead in April; Gabriel Graves, 32, who died at the facility in October, and Kaysie Dianne Werninck, 28, who died in 2009 while she was a patient of the facility. Werninck was not at the Arrowhead facility at the time of her death.

The investigation was complete in December and handed over to District 18 District Attorney Farley Ward.

On Friday, Ward said the case is still under review and no charges have been filed at this time.

In February, the Oklahoma state Senate unanimously passed legislation giving the state oversight of recovery centers such as Narconon Arrowhead. Sen. Tom Ivester, D-Elk City, authored Senate Bill 295 soon after the investigation into the deaths.

He said the legislation would help in “regulating questionable practices” at the Narconon facility.

If the bill becomes law, it will broaden scope of what the ODMHSAS can do. Currently, Narconon Arrowhead does not have to be certified under the agency.

Repeated phone messages seeking comment from officials at Narconon Arrowhead were not returned.

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.

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