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Stacy Dawn Murphy

Stacy Dawn Murphy

Oklahoma’s State Senate today passed SB 295 with a unanimous vote of 43 to 0, and now the bill — aimed at tightening regulation of drug rehab facilities in the state — will go to Governor Mary Fallin, who is expected to sign it into law.

The new statute is a direct result of recent deaths at Scientology’s flagship drug rehab center, Narconon Arrowhead, which is in the eastern part of the state. Three patients at the facility died between October 2011 and July 2012, resulting in multiple state and county investigations and numerous lawsuits, all of which are still pending.

Last summer, Sen. Tom Ivester announced that he wanted to pass legislation that would increase state oversight of the controversial facility. The Democratic senator teamed up with a conservative Republican in Oklahoma’s House, Rep. Jason Murphey, and today SB 295 passed its final hurdle in the legislature.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” says Robert Murphy, whose daughter, Stacy Dawn Murphy, died of a drug overdose at Narconon Arrowhead on July 19. “I can’t say it’s everything I wanted, but it’s a step in the right direction. Hopefully the regulatory commissions will do their jobs. We’ve spoken to them, and I have a feeling something’s going to happen. I think their investigation is going to lead to something.”

Murphy is referring to Oklahoma’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, which should now have greater power to regulate the Narconon facility.

We were the first to report, last summer, that Narconon officials were worried that if the state took a harder look at the facility’s licensing, it could be in big trouble. We based that on the words of Luke Catton, who had once been the president of Narconon Arrowhead. Catton explained that when Narconon had first come to Oklahoma, the state resisted giving it licensing, but Scientology managed to get around that resistance by exploiting a loophole — state approval wasn’t required if the center could substitute licensing from a private industry body.


Closing that loophole is what SB 295 is supposed to address.

“It sends a message about the overwhelming support the public has for holding Narconon accountable,” says Catton, who left Scientology and is now speaking publicly about what he saw as a Narconon executive. “Their games are not going to be tolerated anymore by the legislature or the public.”

We asked Colin Henderson for his thoughts on today’s vote. Henderson was a patient at Narconon Arrowhead until he realized that it was about Scientology, not drug counseling. He’s been working tirelessly to publicize Narconon’s controversies ever since.

“It’s about damn time,” he said. “I just hope that the Department of Mental Health adjusts the rules and regulations accordingly, and starts doing its job — protecting Oklahoma citizens.”

UPDATE: We just spoke with Sen. Ivester about the passage of today’s bill.

“We’re almost there. I can see the finish line. The governor still needs to sign it. She’s still got several weeks to review it. But assuming she signs it, I’m excited,” he said to us by telephone.

Ivester had first started hearing complaints from his constituents about Narconon more than a year ago, and by last summer he was determined to do something about the deaths at the facility.

“We started out a long time ago. The point is to make this facility safe in Oklahoma, and to make sure they’re operating on the up and up,” he said. “I’m glad to have played a part in it.”

And as for the regulatory agencies doing their jobs with the power they have in the new law?

“We’ll be here for the next several years as a follow up,” he said.

For a good overview of the troubles at Narconon Arrowhead, here’s a report from Fox 23 in Tulsa which aired recently…



Posted by Tony Ortega on May 1, 2013 at 15:00

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