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Kim Poff, finally free to speak: ‘I want this story out. I want people to know what Narconon did.’

 
We talked to Kimberly Poff yesterday, the former inspector general who recently won a $200,000 settlement which ended several years of litigation with the state of Oklahoma. We’ve been following Kim’s story since she was fired for acting as a whistleblower when she revealed that Oklahoma’s officials were afraid to take on the Church of Scientology. She had recommended that its flagship drug rehab facility, Narconon Arrowhead, be shut down following three patient deaths in a nine-month period that culminated with the overdose death of 20-year-old Stacy Murphy in July 2012.

Kim filed a lawsuit against the state’s mental health authority for firing her. In the meantime, she got another job with the state’s Department of Human Services. But DHS also fired her after a news story came out about her whistleblowing, and so she filed a second lawsuit against DHS for that firing.

“The mental health lawsuit lasted for over a year, but we lost,” she points out. The settlement she just received was in relation to the second lawsuit, against DHS, which really had nothing directly to do with her Narconon investigation. “They fired me after finding out about my lawsuit against the other, sister agency.”

Sure, it’s complicated. But we told her that what really mattered to us was that after six years since the death of Stacy Murphy we can finally have an interview with Kim Poff about what convinced her that Narconon Arrowhead should be shut down.

“I want this story out. I want these names out there — Stacy Murphy, Hillary Holten, Gabriel Graves — I want people to know what Narconon did. That’s all I ever tried to do, to live by our mission and protect people,” she says.

We still can’t get our hands on Kim’s investigative reports that so frightened her bosses — they’re still under seal — but we asked Kim herself, what’s in them?

“I found multiple violations of mental health law and of Oklahoma administrative code for substance abuse treatment,” she says. And not only were there shocking examples of a facility way out of compliance, she says, but she soon realized a stunning reality — Narconon Arrowhead never should have been allowed by the state to open for business in the first place.

“They never should have been certified. They could not meet the standards of care. In fact, I believe I was terminated because at one point I told the leadership that some day someone will ask me about Arrowhead’s certification and I will have to tell the truth about it.”

At the most basic level, for example, Arrowhead had no business dealing with people whose mental health was in question. “Scientology doesn’t believe in mental health care, so they were immediately taking people off of their medication. And you had these horrific things happening to people because they weren’t getting their medication, and a staff of people who shouldn’t have been treating these people — they were recent graduates of the program themselves.”

Visiting the facility, she says she was shocked by the incompetence of the people who had vulnerable patients under their care. “I asked one staffer the difference between ‘diastolic’ and ‘systolic’ and he couldn’t tell me,” she says.

When a patient had a problem, untrained staff had no idea what to do. “Stacy had access to a drug, and they put her back in nonmedical detox to wait for security to show up, and they weren’t paying attention to her,” she says, explaining how a healthy young person could end up dead in Arrowhead’s “withdrawal unit.”

“Hillary Holten had just been in the hospital and was violently ill, and they just put her in nonmedical detox without a doctor — because the doctor only saw patients on Fridays.”

Kim says the things Narconon considered standard practice were simply outrageous. “The levels of niacin they have people take. They proudly walked us through that facility and we were horrified. And we had no authority over that portion of the program — the sauna and vitamins regimen — but they’re proudly showing us the saunas and one of the staff guys literally said to patient right in front of us, ‘get back in the box.’ What? Gary Smith was proudly telling us how low the saunas are set, but one of my investigators went in there and saw that it was set much higher. They’re baking people. And this is not standardized drug treatment. They’re not providing anything like safe drug treatment,” she says.

In fact, that’s perhaps the most infuriating thing about the Narconon program, we told Kim, and it’s mystifying to us why state regulators seem so powerless to do anything about it — the Narconon business model is based entirely on deception. Scientology tells the public that Narconon delivers individualized drug counseling in a safe environment with medical personnel, when none of that is true. The Narconon program doesn’t have anything to do with drug counseling. Instead, patients receive the sauna regimen and then take part in exercises that are identical to what beginning Scientologists go through in Scientology churches. Narconon patients learn Scientology, not drug education. And there are no on-hand medical personnel, just staffs made up of recent graduates of the program, who have been accused in numerous lawsuits for supplying drugs to patients and in some case in return for sex.

“They say they have a 75 percent success rate. It’s bullshit. No one has a rate like that. It’s all a lie,” Kim says.

One example that still astonishes her, she says, was an interview with one of the two staff members who were supposed to be observing Hillary Holten. “The guy literally said, ‘I didn’t know what she looked like until I saw her picture in the newspaper.’ He was supposed to be checking on her by their alleged protocol, and his statement was that he hadn’t checked on her. They found her when she wasn’t moving. This was the guy who was supposed to be taking care of her,” she says.

“It was devastating to be out there and hear the things that we heard. It went on and on. We heard about staff bringing drugs in and having sex with the clients. And they would be able to admit to it on a ‘Knowledge Report’ and not be punished,” she says. “We were screaming to our leadership, you cannot keep this place open. There’s nothing about this that is OK.”

Kim says that she and her investigator, Michael DeLong, submitted “six or seven” investigative reports to the state mental health authority.

“I was providing reports with evidence of things we found. We found multiple problems, and we had many meetings with our higher-ups, including people who were there in the 1990s who had been through Scientology threatening to sue the state over their certification, Kirstie Alley coming to town and the whole thing — and they were scared,” she says. “They weren’t willing to take Scientology on. That’s the end of it.”

And it enrages her that Oklahoma ever let Narconon open its doors in the first place. “None of those things should have happened. Our certification never should have happened. But it was about money in the right places, it was about fear. You talk about the Church of Scientology coming in, and Kirstie Alley telling the press that the state was trying to prevent good care — and our leaders talked about the fear of being sued. Everyone was scared to death.”

We asked her if she experienced any of the usual Scientology shenanigans while the investigation was going on.

“They followed us when we were doing the investigation, and they recorded us while we were there. And they wanted you to know it,” she says. “At one point, we went from one of their facilities to another, and we stopped at lunch on the way. When we got to the second place, they asked us, ‘How was Chili’s?'”

Kim admits that she’s relieved the litigation is over and that she received a settlement. “But it was never about the money. I was supposed to retire in two years! I haven’t had health insurance in four years. Life is different now, and that’s OK,” she says. What motivated her, she says, was that she had promised the families of Stacy Murphy, Hillary Holten, and Gabriel Graves that she would try her best to get to the bottom of what had happened.

“I talked to Robert Murphy three days after Stacy died, and I promised him that I’d find out what happened,” she says. But after she made her reports, the mental health authority got increasingly nervous, and tried to bring in the state’s attorney general. She says that at one point, she went with AG’s representatives to Gary Richardson’s office, the attorney who was handling wrongful death lawsuits for the families. “Robert Murphy was there, and I couldn’t tell him what I knew, and it broke my heart.” At that point, she had to keep her findings to herself as long as her bosses were suppressing her reports.

“OK, we lost our jobs, but he lost his daughter,” Kim says, explaining how she’s kept things in perspective over six years of litigation.

As for Arrowhead today, Kim has heard the same things we have, that the place became a shell of what it once was. But the potential for harm is still there. “They’re following L. Ron Hubbard to the letter. They can’t change. They even had an office for him at Arrowhead. Every Scientology org has a place for L. Ron, and so does Arrowhead.”

The state, meanwhile, continues to show no signs that it will be doing anything about the violations that Kim and Michael DeLong found in their investigations. “Not only was nothing done, but the state certified Arrowhead as a halfway house. It’s disgusting,” she says. “It continues to validate them, and it validates what they’re doing.”

Today, Kim is living in Colorado and she’s engaged to be married. She told us about some business opportunities she and her fiance have been pursuing. But she’s also job-hunting, and after what happened in Oklahoma it’s an adventure. “After a really nice career — I’ve been a public servant my entire career — it’s a nasty blip to have on your resume. Two lawsuits and appeals, it makes me look litigation-happy. People have to be open to hearing the story, and most people hiring aren’t. It’s an interesting challenge.”

And she never forgets what she found at Scientology’s drug rehab.

“It’s a dangerous place. Do not send the people you love there.”

 
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Catch as Ketchikan

We saw readers buzzing over a somewhat puzzling story out of Alaska yesterday. The AP reported that an “unpublicized ceremony” had drawn 70 top Scientologists to Ketchikan, Alaska for an event that had some sort of connection to raising money for the planned L. Ron Hubbard Hall, which will go next to the Super Power Building (a/k/a the “Flag Building”) in Clearwater, Florida.

Sure, we recognized what was going on. The Alaska event is consistent with what we’ve reported in the past — fundraising for the L. Ron Hubbard Hall has been treating whales to historic settings in the life of Hubbard, as we reported when they sent the big moneybags to Phoenix two years ago…

 

 
So this time the big donors were given a tour of the Alaska sites where Hubbard in 1940 had his dubious adventures there when he was stuck for months because his boat had engine trouble. We look forward to getting our hands on the church pamphlet that lists all of the attendees. It’s only a matter of time before it surfaces!

 
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Chris Shelton on his day of freedom

Says Chris: “This week, I celebrate my five year anniversary of the day I came to realize that Scientology was a con. In going through some of my papers, I found a small stack of Knowledge Reports and my freeloader’s bill and other paperwork, so in this video I go over some of that and the treatment I received back in 2013 when I had just left the Sea Org and was trying to be a good public Scientologist. Then I talk about some of the changes I’ve experienced over these five years and get to reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m going. While a lot of this is personal to me, I think some of this might be educational and helpful to those newly out of Scientology and can give some kind of idea of what ‘recovery’ actually means.”

 

 
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Bonus items from our tipsters

Actual caption: “All praise is due to Allah! The Black Scientologist convention was off the chain!! It was the most beautiful marriage of the black brothers & sisters from the Church of Scientology and the mighty F.O.I. & M.G.T. believers of the Nation of Islam!! We came together to mop up the wilderness of North America & the world! Thank you, Lt. Cmdr Sharron Weber”

 

 
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Make your plans now!

HOWDYCON UPDATE

Wow, we’re now less than two months out, and Chee Chalker is working hard to make sure things are going to run smoothly at this year’s HowdyCon in Chicago, June 21-23. As in past years, we’re looking forward to meeting readers of the Bunker, culminating in Saturday night’s main event.

The biggest difference this year is that our Saturday night event is separate from that evening’s dinner. Chee is setting up an inexpensive pizza dinner that you don’t need to pay for ahead of time, after which we’ll walk over to the theater where our event, hosted by Chicago Fire star Christian Stolte, will take place. Because it’s a separate event, we’re asking that you pay $10 each to get into the Saturday night event, which will help us recoup what the Bunker paid for the venue. (We have never made a penny on our HowdyCon meetups, we only try to break even.)

Please email your proprietor (tonyo94 AT gmail) in order to reserve your spot for Saturday night’s main event. Seating is limited, and we’re going to have some really interesting people on stage and they may make a few announcements that you don’t want to miss.

 

 
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Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,096 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 1,699 days
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 242 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,305 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,079 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,853 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,199 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,693 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,733 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,445 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 971 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,060 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,200 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,520 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,495 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 851 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,153 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,259 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,662 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,534 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,116 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,621 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,865 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,974 days.

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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on April 26, 2018 at 07:00

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

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 can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2017 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2017), 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 | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news

 

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