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More Questions About Scientology-Style Drug Rehab And Insurance — This Time in Michigan

BestDrugRehabWe’ve been watching things deteriorate for Scientology’s closed drug rehab center in the Atlanta area — Narconon Georgia — whose employees are now being investigated for potential criminal charges following a raid by law enforcement in April.

Our readers will likely remember that documents pried out of Narconon Georgia during a wrongful death lawsuit inspired Atlanta’s media to dig even further until they found evidence that a woman’s insurance company had been charged more than $160,000 after she had been told her advance payment of $15,000 would completely cover her daughter’s treatment. After state investigators began a criminal probe based on that information, millions more in suspicious charges to insurance companies turned up.

Now we’ve talked to a man who said he was told his treatment would cost $20,000 — but then found that his insurance company was billed nearly $200,000 instead. This man’s name is Sean Blevins, and he was treated at a Narconon-style center in Manistee, Michigan. We have Sean’s insurance billings. Will they inspire the same kind of interest in Michigan that has law enforcement digging in Georgia?

Sean Blevins is 42 and today lives in Florida. But he grew up in Alabama, and was transferred to Michigan by the company that had employed him for more than 20 years. His company was supportive when he developed a drinking problem — he’s never done drugs, he says — and he looked for a place to dry out. His sister did a search on the Internet, and suggested that he try a place in Battle Creek called A Forever Recovery. Before he could enroll there, however, he was told that he needed to go through a short medical detoxification program at another facility called Tranquility Detox. This requirement was for insurance reasons, he was told. He didn’t have the $20,000 for his treatment, but he was told that if he went through the medical detox, his insurance would cover his costs.

“They gave us all something to drink,” he tells us. After they picked him up, on the way to the facility he was taken to a bar to get him good and drunk. “You have to fail the breathalyzer. I blew a 2.2 or something. I was pretty inebriated.” He then spent five days at Tranquility Detox, where he was put on phenobarbital, which “zombified” him, he says.

Those facility names should be familiar to our readers — we just wrote about a deposition of a woman who was head of nursing at A Forever Recovery (which at that time had its own medical detox program, which has since been spun off to Tranquility Detox). She too testified about the practice of getting new patients inebriated before starting the program.


Blevins says he had few problems at A Forever Recovery, and he left the facility on June 6, 2012. He says he was told that if he relapsed, he could do a “retread” for free.

Later, when he started drinking again, he went back for more treatment, and this time was sent to another center, Best Drug Rehab in Manistee, Michigan, after another short drying out at Tranquility Detox.

A Forever Recovery, Tranquility Detox, and Best Drug Rehab are all part of a small rehab chain run by a man named Per Wickstrom who has a lengthy history with Scientology and its drug treatment system, Narconon. But a former Narconon International employee tells us that in 2008 there was a dispute between Narconon and Wickstrom, and he lost his licensing for what was then called Narconon Stone Hawk. After the license dispute, Wickstrom changed its name to A Forever Recovery. But Wickstrom still maintains ties with Scientology’s front groups in various ways, and Narconon materials are still used at the facilities — particularly at the Manistee center, Best Drug Rehab.

“That’s when the Scientology brainwashing started,” Sean Blevins says about his stay at Best Drug Rehab. “Staring contests. Bullbaiting. Walking people into walls, the whole thing.” He didn’t care for it, but he stuck it out from July 30 to early October, 2012. “They tried to push me toward Scientology, but I wasn’t interested.”

Also, he was surprised to find later how much he’d been charged. “It was supposed to be free, but it wasn’t free. I told them I still had COBRA insurance, but I couldn’t pay my premiums. They told me they’d make my insurance premiums so they could get me the most out of my policy,” he says.

Eventually, between his stay at A Forever Recovery, his two short stints at Tranquility Detox, and his tenure at Best Drug Rehab, his insurance policy was billed to the tune of $190,000. Records show that his insurance company actually paid just under $70,000 on those claims.

Sean says that while he was at Tranquility Detox the second time, a patient named Amber Bullins arrived. We’ve written about her before.

“When she came in, she didn’t talk to anybody,” he says. Then, a few days later, she was in trouble.

“The paramedics came, and the employees were doing damage control. ‘Don’t say anything to anyone,’ they told us. They said she overdosed when she came in,” he said — but she had been there several days already.

“They said she must have smuggled the drugs in. But I don’t know how she could have done that,” Blevins says. “She was a young girl. She had a problem, and she went to them for help.”

We called Best Drug Rehab on Monday and asked to speak to Per Wickstrom or someone who could talk to us about Sean Blevin’s insurance issues. We’ll let you know if we get a response.


AGPFilmingAngry Gay Pope Lands In Jail

Long time Scientology critic and filmmaker Donald Myers — better known as Angry Gay Pope — was arrested yesterday after Scientology alleged that he stalked a member of its Sea Org.

At his website, AGP has chronicled his legal issues with Scientology Sea Org member Lissa Uvizl, who took out a temporary restraining order in 2008 after she objected to being filmed. (See a still from that video to the right, with Uvizl telling AGP to leave her alone. He pointed out that they were on a public sidewalk. The scene was shot near the Hollywood Guaranty Building on Hollywood Boulevard, a major Scientology landmark.)

AGP characterized the restraining order as a form of harassment, and indicated on his website that any orders against him had expired. Yesterday, he told former church member Karen de la Carriere that he was planning to attend a protest. She later heard that he was being held in Los Angeles County Jail.

We called AGP’s attorney, Graham Berry, for more information about what happened. He told us that AGP had wanted to picket the Hollywood Guaranty Building on the day of Guy Fawkes Night. “At some point he stuck his head in the door of the L. Ron Hubbard Life Exhibition,” Berry told us. That’s the museum to Hubbard on the ground floor of the HGB. (Now that he’s out of jail, Pope tells us that he did not enter the building at any time.)

“He said something to Lissa, who had a restraining order against him before. They used that as a pretext to call in the Los Angeles Police Department and accuse him of stalking,” Berry says. But once Pope was taken to a police station, he convinced officers there to view the footage that he’d filmed, and Berry says after they did so, they decided not to charge Pope. “But Lissa insisted, saying he had been following her home for months,” Berry says, which Pope denies. AGP was booked, and he spent the night at the Metro Detention Center downtown, held on a felony and with bail set at $150,000. Berry says it’s his understanding that Uvizl also obtained another restraining order against Pope.

Berry is recovering from eye surgery and cannot attend court this morning. He expected Pope to be represented by a public defender today, and we’ll update this post when we hear whether Pope could get himself released from custody.


Russell Brand and Sam Domingo in London

Hey, look who showed up at the Million Mask March demonstration on Guy Fawkes Night in London.

Says Sam: “Some woman was yelling at him to be our leader, to which he quietly responded that we were all doing what we needed to do.”



Posted by Tony Ortega on November 6, 2013 at 07:00

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