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Ivester says Narconon Arrowhead deaths prompted new law

Sen. Tom Ivester Sen. Tom Ivester
Sen. Ivester says deaths at substance abuse centers prompted new law.

In the past two years, three Oklahoma families sent loved ones to a substance abuse program at Narconon Arrowhead with the hopes of recovery. Instead, those families wound up planning funerals. Sen. Tom Ivester responded by filing legislation ensuring the state would have oversight of facilities operated by Narconon, known to have close ties to the Church of Scientology. Senate Bill 295, by Ivester and Rep. David Derby, was signed by Gov. Mary Fallin this past week.

Ivester said the new law gives Oklahoma’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS) the ability to regulate and inspect Narconon facilities.

“There have been a total of seven deaths in seven years at Narconon Arrowhead and no requirement for state certification,” said Ivester, D-Sayre. “There have been multiple lawsuits for wrongful death, fraud and deceit filed against that facility. I wanted to figure to out what we could do as a state to provide a safe environment for the people who go there and make sure there’s no fraud or deception.”

There have been reports of unorthodox methods at the Narconon facility on Lake Eufaula, like requiring patients to endure hours of extreme heat in saunas and administering questionable doses of Niacin, a vitamin more widely known for improving cholesterol levels. Ivester said Narconon was unique because it didn’t portray itself as a rehabilitation facility, but as a “recovery” facility, meaning under state law, they were not regulated as a rehab center would be. SB 295 added the terms “recovery” and “recovery support services” to the list of services ODMHSAS is authorized to inspect and regulate.

“I am very pleased that SB 295 was signed by Gov. Fallin and will now become law,” said Derby, R-Owasso. “This gives the state Department of Mental Health the ability to make sure our citizens are safe in their hour of need. Closing this loophole that prevented the regulation of a group such as Narconon is an important matter and will only serve to help those Oklahomans in the most need.”

The new law takes effect November 1, 2013.

Contact info
Sen. Ivester: (405) 521-5545