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January 18, 2013

After deaths at Narconon Arrowhead, Senator proposes legislation

McALESTER — After several deaths at Narconon Arrowhead, a senator has proposed legislation to regulate private drug and alcohol facilities.

In August Sen. Tom Ivester (D-OK 26th District) told the News- Capital he would 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.

This month Sen. Ivester introduced Senate Bill 295 which broadens the scope of what the Board of Mental Health can do.

 Narconon Arrowhead is a non-profit drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Canadian  affiliated with the Church of Scientology.

 The organization was under a multi-agency investigation since the July 19 death of Stacy Dawn Murphy, 20, of Owasso, by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, the Pittsburg County Sheriff's Office and the Department of Mental Health.

Since her death, the investigation 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.

In November Murphy’s autopsy report revealed that she died of an accidental overdose. With that information the investigation was complete and was handed over District 18 District Attorney Farley Ward who will make the decision whether criminal charges will be filed in connection the deaths.

 Currently Narconon Arrowhead does not have to be certified under the Oklahoma Board of Mental Health.

If passed Sen. Ivester’s bill would ammed the current so that the Board could also certify recovery centers such as Narconon which is a non-regilous based organization. Exempt from his bill are religous-based organizations.

 According to the Narconon’s corporate classification they are register as a public benefit non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation. Churches and religious organizations are legally classifed as “religious non-profit.” Narconon would not be exempt from this bill, according to thier non-profit status.

Ivester’s bill, if passed would amend the current law so that the Board could also certify recovery centers, such as Narconon Arrowhead.

Meanwhile, back in August Ivester said he believed the state could impose strict regulations of “unorthodox drug treatment programs, like the one being run at Narconon Arrowhead that requires patients to endure five hours of extreme heat in a sauna and taking questionable 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 upmost safety for these vulnerable patients and their families.”

Officials at Narconon could not be reached for comment.

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.

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