Narconon of Oklahoma CEO opens up after recent deaths provoke scrutiny

In July, 2News reporter Sara Goldenberg shed light on Oklahoma's Narconon Arrowhead, a non-medical drug rehabilitation facility in Canadian, Okla.

The program, which has been closely tied to L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology, has seen four patients die while under facility care since 2009.

At the time of our initial story, three patients had died on Narconon Arrowhead grounds in nine months.

Last week, NBC's Rock Center aired the results of an investigation into the rehab facility for the first time.

After an initial statement from Narconon of Oklahoma CEO Gary Smith, 2News received an expanded letter from Smith defending the care of its patients.

Here is the letter in its entirety.

AN OPEN LETTER FROM NARCONON ARROWHEAD'S CEO, GARY W. SMITH

To the grieving parents I want to say that I know what it is like to lose a child.  My wife and I have struggled through every birthday, every Christmas and the date of death, year after year for nearly two decades now. I understand at a gut level what these parents are going through and how desperate they are for answers they need to explain the terrible loss. I also know there are no set rules in how someone grieves for a lost loved one. If going public in search of those answers is how one is going to deal with a loss of this magnitude I understand that and I respect them and their right to do so.  

There are structured regulatory and administrative procedures that are followed in Oklahoma whenever there are critical incidents that raise public safety concerns. Narconon Arrowhead has cooperated fully and openly with all the agencies involved in this process and will continue to do so until a full accounting of all the facts in these matters can be assembled. This matter is best left in the hands of the participating agencies who can maintain unbiased objectivity.

The facts in this case and the thousands of lives that have been saved from drug addiction because of the Narconon program over the last 20 years are getting lost in the unsubstantiated claims from too many outside sources that are not party to the circumstances surrounding these incidents, the Narconon Arrowhead program or the agencies that are investigating the public safety concerns in these matters.

Following are some of the important facts that have been ignored by some of the recent reporting that the public has a right to know.

  • It is Narconon Arrowhead's position that the organization has not violated any laws or certification requirements and has been in full compliance with all requests made by the regulatory agencies and law enforcement involved in the current investigations.
  • Narconon since opening 20 years ago in Oklahoma has cared for and delivered drug and alcohol rehabilitation services to over 10,000 individuals.
  • For Narconon's first 19 years of operation there were no client deaths in the program or the facility. In 2012 there were three deaths in the facility over a 9 month period.
  • Narconon has made 2 requests to the families of the deceased to sign a HIPAA compliant release of information waiver so Narconon could address inaccuracies in some of the information that is being reported about the deaths but Legal Counsel for the families have advised their clients not do so. To date permission for Narconon to speak about these individuals has been denied.
  • Narconon Arrowhead is a non-profit organization that was organized for public benefit purposes. Narconon is a non religious program, meaning it does not require a client to make any religious choices. The Narconon program it is based on teachings from L. Ron Hubbard that are specific to life improvement skills and nutritional therapies that are designed to improve physical health; develop sound problem identification and solving skills; heighten one's sense of moral values and build self esteem. These are key issues that need to be addressed in the addiction recovery process. While most of the principals and rehabilitation methods used at Narconon can be found within the vast amount of information contained in the religion of Scientology materials, all of the materials pertaining to the Narconon recovery program have been completely secularized and contain no religious philosophy.
  • Narconon Arrowhead is certified to offer non medical detox services by the ODMHSAS and accredited by CARF and has complied fully with all applicable regulations and treatment standards set forth by these two agencies. Additionally, Narconon has remained in full compliance with all state laws that govern the legal operation and conduct of a Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Program in Oklahoma since it was first licensed and accredited in 1992.
  • Narconon Arrowhead has offered 45-48 ability to pay scholarship beds per year since 2001. This scholarship program was created for individuals who are in need of drug or alcohol rehabilitation services that do not have the financial resources
    • to pay for treatment services or who could not secure a state funded treatment bed at their time of need. Most of these beds in this program have been granted to local Oklahomans at no cost to the state or its tax payers.
    • Narconon Arrowhead currently employs 175 staff. All are taxpaying residents of Oklahoma.
    • Narconon Arrowhead is one of the top employers in Pittsburg and McIntosh Counties.
    • Narconon drug education lecturers have delivered drug prevention programs to approximately 200,000 young people and adults in Oklahoma in the last 5 years. All were delivered at no cost to the state or its tax payers.
    • Over Narconon's 20 year history in Oklahoma to date there has been a total of 5 lawsuits concerning former Narconon clients. Three were settled, 1 was dismissed and 1 is pending.

    Among Narconon Arrowhead's 175 staff there are 44 licensed or credentialed treatment staff that work with our clients at the Narconon Arrowhead facility.

    • 1 Medical Director, Licensed Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. He is a member of the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Board Certified Family Practice – American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians and FDA Certification for Outpatient Opiate Addiction Treatment.
    • 7 full time LPN's. This exceeds state requirements for nursing staff for non medical detox or residential treatment services.
    • 3 LADC's (Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors) with ICAADC (International Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor) certification.
    • 2 CADC's (Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselors) with ICADC (International Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor) certification .
    • 20 CCDC's (Certified Chemical Dependency Counselor, Certified through the National Association of Forensic Counselors and The National Board of Addiction Examiners)
    • 5 CBHCM's (Certified Behavioral Health Case Managers)
    • 2 ODMHSAS trained ASI (Addiction Severity Index) Interviewers.
    • 4 ODMHSAS trained RSS's (Recovery Support Specialist)

    Sincerely,

    Gary W. Smith, CEO

    Narconon of Oklahoma, Inc.

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