Rod Keller keeps a close watch on Scientology’s front groups, and this week gives us another report on the church’s drug rehab network, Narconon…
The Narconon drug rehab facility in Fort Collins, Colorado is known as “A Life Worth Saving.” The former Diamond Crest Assisted Living center was purchased by Narconon in 2008, and the center offers the Scientology program of saunas, megadoses of vitamins, and “TRs” or “training routines.” In 2014 attorney Ryan Hamilton sued the facility on behalf of patients Tyler Mathys and Nikki Mott, claiming that the facility doesn’t provide actual treatment for drug addiction, and that it caused psychological injuries. (The suit was later settled.) No deaths have been reported at the facility, unlike others in the Narconon system.
Baltimore resident Joseph Dahdah attended the facility briefly in 2015, and his experience suggests that even after years of patient deaths, government investigations, and dozens of lawsuits, the rehabs are still operating with almost no change at all. I spoke with him and his mother Christine this week and they described the experience.
Five years ago Joseph started doing Oxycontin then moved on to heroin. “We sent him to Father Martin Ashley center in [Havre de Grace] Maryland,” says Christine. “He did a 30 day rehab, came home and shortly after that relapsed. He did Kolmac, which is an outpatient program through Shepherd Pratt [hospital in Towson, Maryland]. He relapsed. We then were terrified and desperate, and I went online and found this program. The person I spoke to told me about his previous drug use, and how they went to this Narconon of Fresh Start in Colorado. I thought it was a good idea to get him out of Baltimore because we’re the heroin capital of the country.”
The referral line put Christine in touch with Narconon staff member Dan Carmichael. “He called every day, and I told him I’m reading on the Internet that you are Scientologists. He said they were not Scientologists, and they had a great program. My son would be outdoors and hiking and getting a lot of exercise.” She was still unsure about the program until she received a call from a different Narconon staff member, Josh Penn.
“He called and told me his story that he had been to 11 different rehabs and this one was the only one that worked. And we were desperate, and Narconon wasn’t covered by insurance so we sent them $31,000.”
Joseph arrived at Narconon A Life Worth Saving in 2015. He soon told his mother he wanted to leave. “He said I can’t stay here. There’s not enough food. They send out for pizza or subs every day. There’s not enough milk for cereal in the morning. It’s dirty, they don’t clean anything. It’s run by a bunch of former drug addicts who don’t know anything.”
Joseph says, “People were catching rides to Denver to get high, then coming back with drugs. Some of the staff were having sex with the patients.” (Similar allegations of drug use and sex-for-drugs were made in lawsuits at various Narconon facilities in the last few years.) The staff confiscated a Bible sent to Joseph by his grandmother. He also says the staff would wake him up in the middle of the night to ask, “Who sent you here?” The staff suspected him of being a spy sent to investigate the Scientology nature of Narconon. “Mom, I can’t talk to an ashtray for five hours a day,” Joseph told Christine.
Commanding an ashtray to stand up or sit down is part of the Scientology process known as TR-8: Tone 40 on an Object. Narconon patients perform many such training routines during their treatment. Narconon hires former patients directly into the same facility to become staff members with little or no training in substance abuse or recovery.
Joseph’s stay at A Life Worth Saving was not long. Within two weeks he had been kicked out and the staff dropped off at a homeless shelter. The operator of the shelter told Christine, “We see people here all the time from that place.” He had a staph infection on his arms that he received from his roommate. The roommate had been sent to Narconon on antibiotics, but they were taken from him. His arms were horribly scarred that “looked like he had been in a fire,” says Christine. Narconon Colorado told her, “Your son is a liar and has a bad attitude.” And she says she replied, “Yes, that’s why we sent him there.” Narconon replied that if they were so bad, they wouldn’t still be operating, and that they send people into schools to do drug education programs and are well respected in the community.
Christine says she contacted the police. “They said they didn’t have any complaints about Narconon Colorado,” she says. But this is not true. The Fort Collins Police Department has records from 2008-2013 of a variety of incidents at the facility.
“We feel like we were scammed into sending money to an organization that was not what they said they were. We spoke to a few lawyers, and they said they were overwhelmed with clients from Narconon. They have cases where people died, or had more severe problems as a result of their stay, and they don’t have the money to take on all the cases that they would like to.”
Since coming back to Baltimore Joseph has relapsed several times. He is now in an outpatient program that uses Suboxone, a drug used to treat patients with an addiction to opioids. He lives with his family, who are making sure he takes his meds and make him account for any money he makes. Christine says she will keep working to help her son, but regrets involving him in Scientology and Narconon.
— Rod Keller
More charming Danny Masterson news
In an update to our story on Friday about Danny Masterson being investigated by the LAPD in three separate cases of sexual assault (for which Masterson has not been charged, and which he denies), we learned that before he was “DJ Mom Jeans” Masterson went by the name of “DJ Donkey Punch.” (And the slang definition of “Donkey Punch” is especially interesting, given the specific nature of the allegations that are spelled out in the two police reports we made public Friday.)
Well, it turns out that he has used another DJ name, which was memorialized by Getty Images, when it took this picture of Masterson in 2006. At that time, he was going by “DJ Donkey Pizzle,” with “pizzle” being another word for penis. The guy is such a charmer, isn’t he?
Here’s the caption that Getty Images includes: “Actor Eric Balfour speaks with DJ Donkey Pizzle, a.k.a. Danny Masterson, at the launch of Ben Sherman’s first official U.S. Flagship Store on March 30, 2006 in New York City.”
HowdyCon 2017: Denver, June 23-25. Go here to start making your plans.
Scientology disconnection, a reminder
Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,682 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 1,785 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,279 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,319 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy in 1,031 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 498 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,616 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 1,786 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,106 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,081 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 437 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin in 4,739 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 846 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis for 1,248 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,121 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 702 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike in 1,207 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,451 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,560 days.
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Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.
The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)
Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts
Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ
Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield