CANADIAN, Okla. - Narconon Arrowhead officials downplayed news that broke over the weekend of a national counseling association opting to revoke its certification, saying Monday the credential has "no legal bearing whatsoever on Narconon's operation."
Karla Taylor, president of the National Association of Forensic Counselors, confirmed to the Associated Press Saturday that Arrowhead CEO Gary Smith and several other Narconon employees' counselor certifications had been revoked.
Smith and the staff would not be able to recertify as the certifications were revoked and not suspended, according to Taylor.
READ: 'Narconon Arrowhead under microscope' (http://bit.ly/O2qmNF)
The certification is not a requirement to operate in the state, but it does serve as another black eye on the facility's reputation.
“The CCDC (Certified Chemical Dependency Counselor) certification issued by the NAFC, (National Association of Forensic Counselors) which was formerly known as the NBAE (National Board of Addiction Examiners) is not required by the State of Oklahoma and never has been. Therefore the status of this credential should have no legal bearing whatsoever on Narconon’s operation," said John Bitinas, public relations officer for the facility.
Narconon Arrowhead, a non-profit drug and rehabilitation center in Canadian, Okla., has come under fire in recent months after three of its patients were found dead in less than a year.
A bill currently making its way through the state Senate would give Oklahoma increased oversight of recovery centers (http://bit.ly/WEzspz) like Narconon Arrowhead.
Senator Tom Ivester (D- Elk City) wants the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health to have more regulatory power over rehabilitation facilities. Right now Narconon Arrowhead is accredited by CARF, a national, independent organization.
"I want them to operate in a safe manner. And if they have to change their standards to do that, then they've got to change their standards," Ivester said.
A former Narconon Arrowhead patient and employee is watching the legislation's journey through the Senate closely.
Jake Wilson says Narconon Arrowhead were unethical with their handling of 20-year-old Stacy Murphy's death.
"It was kind of swept to the side, kept away from us students at the time," he said.
Despite some worries, Wilson says he stayed at Narconon to help others after he trained to be an employee. He quit just a few weeks ago after growing concerns.
"It didn't seem too ethical. People were getting really sick and in certain situations, denied certain things that I believe should've been handled," Wilson said.
Wilson wants to see change at Narconon Arrowhead.
"It's no joke. And with the circumstances that happened over the summertime and just recently, it needs to be changed," he said.
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