5 More Lawsuits Filed Against Narconon Arrowhead Rehab Facility
PITTSBURG COUNTY, Oklahoma - Five lawsuits were filed against the Narconon Arrowhead rehab facility Thursday.
The lawsuits each allege false representation on behalf of the Pittsburg County facility, non-disclosure or concealment, fraud and deceit, breach of contract, and civil conspiracy.
Claims made in the lawsuits are similar to the ones made in previous filings. They each allege that the facility claimed to have a success rate over 70 percent and claimed to offer round-the-clock medical services and one-on-one counseling. One plaintiff alleges the facility told her they had the ability to diagnose mental illnesses, though there was no psychologist or psychiatrist on the staff.
Narconon does advertise a 70 percent success rate—a number CEO Gary Smith said comes from a series of survey calls, following program completion.
They allege that residents at the rehab center are cared for by "students," who were unqualified for that purpose.
Smith has defended that practice.
"Ex-users helping users has always had its value. A person who's on drugs will trust an individual who they know has been on drugs, and they will be more honest with that person then," Smith said.
Nearly 75 percent of the staff is made up of Narconon graduates, according to Smith.
The suits filed Thursday allege that drugs were readily available to the students and that counselors would provide drugs and alcohol to students in exchange for "sex and other improper consideration."
In the suit filed by former student Sue Ann Newman and her sister, Dena Shobe, they claim Narconon offered them a no-interest loan to pay the $15,000 tuition. Two months after Newman was admitted to the facility, they allegedly told her that deal was never approved. Shobe then claims to have received credit cards in the mail, she claims were applied for in her name by Narconon, without her permission. The cards, with an interest rate of 23 percent, had $14,500 charged to them; the exact amount Narconon had billed her for her sister's treatment, the suit says.
Another plaintiff, Vicki White, alleges the facility got her phone number from a website that was advertised as a help line for parents of people with addiction problems. She alleges to have received several calls from Narconon, urging her to enroll her son in treatment.
Her son was enrolled in January 2011, according to the lawsuit, without any discussion of the cost. She claims she later received a call from a representative, saying that her son was in serious condition and they needed payment to treat him, so she paid $1,000.
The suit claims the facility failed to provide medical supervision during her son's withdrawal and kept him in a room where smoking was allowed, denying him his inhaler. White alleges she called numerous times, requesting her son be given the inhaler for his asthma, and her requests were ignored.
White claims Narconon called her son's father, asking for payment and received $9,000 from him, and then called his grandmother, who borrowed $7,000 to pay them.
Then, White alleges, when her son graduated from the program, she was told there would be a series of phone calls from the facility, as part of an "After Care Program." She claims, in the suit, that no calls ever came.
Smith has said in the past that Narconon has no religious affiliation, but does acknowledge that the Church of Scientology is a supporter of the facility.
"It's not accurate to say to say it's Scientology-based, because Scientology is a religion," Smith said. "We are not a religion. You can look at all our materials—there is no religious philosophies or anything in any of the materials that the individuals study here. It's life-skills. We'll never be the Church of Scientology. We never were."
In her lawsuit, Mary Cantu, alleges the facility attempted to take away her Catholic son's Rosary while he was in treatment there.
Cantu claims her son was enrolled in July 27, 2011 and left in August 12, 2011, after his roommate had a seizure. She claims, in her suit, to have paid $13,000.
One plaintiff, Gina Nelson, alleges her son was suspended from the program and transported to the Tulsa Salvation Army, with nothing but the clothes on his back, after she questioned the facility's treatments. Nelson claims her son was subjected to interrogation and told he was a "suppressive person."
Nelson's lawsuit also mentions the controversial sauna treatment Narconon employs, which involves a specific vitamin regimen, including Niacin. The suits claim the dosage levels are toxic and potentially fatal.
Gabriel Graves, Hillary Holten and Stacy Dawn Murphy all died while in the care of Narconon Arrowhead in a nine-month span.
Earlier this month, the center's employees' drug counseling certifications were revoked by the National Association of Forensic Counselors.
Narconon Arrowhead is being investigated by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, the Pittsburg County Sheriff's Office and the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
In each of the lawsuits filed Thursday, the plaintiffs ask for no less than $75,000 in damages.
John Bitinas, spokesperson for Narconon Arrowhead issued the following statement in response to the lawsuits:
"It is pretty clear that these lawsuits are financially motivated and have no foundation of truth contained in them. As in any lawsuit that is filed allegations are made which contain gossip and information that often times is not factual. It is in the courtroom where the truth will prevail. The Narconon organization has been helping people overcome drug and alcohol addiction in the United States for 47 years and in Oklahoma for 23 years. Narconon's mission has always been to help people overcome addiction and prevent kids from becoming addicts through our drug education and prevention programs. We are confident that justice will be served in these matters and Narconon will continue to achieve its purpose."