LEONA VALLEY – An organization with ties to the Church of Scientology that wants to open a drug treatment center in Bouquet Canyon was cited for dozens of violations by state inspectors within the last five years, according to documents.
The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will vote on whether to allow Narconon International to open a 66-bed facility near Leona Valley.
Narconon runs four treatment facilities in the state.
At the Newport Beach facility, state inspectors found in January 2003 that staff members administered medication to residents without authorization and had alcohol on the premises. In February 2003, state inspectors found two staff members at Narconon’s Watsonville facility went drinking with a graduating resident from the program.
Clark Carr, the head of Narconon, said the two were fired and his organization has corrected the other problems and violations that have been found at Narconon facilities.
“We completely agree with strict standards and unannounced surprise inspections,” Carr said. “We’re glad to have them.”
Another violation state Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs inspectors found at Narconon facilities was beds without mattress pads, including an inspection at the Newport Beach facility in November 2004, that found 24 beds without pads.
Carr said he was unsure why the pads might have been missing, but he said that problem had been corrected as well.
Narconon was created 40 years ago and uses the writings of L. Ron Hubbard, late founder of the Church of Scientology, to treat addicts. Instead of administering drugs, the program puts addicts on a regimen of vitamins, including niacin, and has them “sweat out” toxins with time in the sauna.
“We’ve been doing it for decades in California and throughout the United States and the world, and we have a very good record,” Carr said.
Sheriff Lee Baca has expressed support for Narconon going into the Bouquet Canyon site. Although the sheriff said he has not visited a Narconon facility, he has been briefed on the program and he liked what he heard.
“This is America’s No. 1 health problem, illegal drug use, and to a certain extent legal drug use, including alcohol,” Baca said. “So I’m an advocate for any program that can help people get away from drugs and their addiction to drugs. That’s why I support it.”
But the Narconon approach to fighting drugs has been questioned by outside experts. Narconon has a program to educate schoolchildren about drugs, which the California Department of Education evaluated last year and found wasn’t based on science or medicine.
Jack O’Connell, state superintendent of public instruction, asked that schools not use the Narconon program, but Carr said the program is still taught at schools at the request of on-site administrators.
The inaccurate information given to students included that drugs burn up vitamins and nutrients, and that small amounts of drugs are stored in fat and are released at a later time, making the person want to use the drug again, according to the education department report.
– Justice Anderson, Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia, quoted at What judges have to say about Scientology
“The materials I’ve seen in their brochures would suggest to me that the treatment that they provide certainly is not in line with current scientific thinking about addiction,” said professor Richard Rawson, associate director of Integrated Substance Abuse Programs at the University of California, Los Angeles.
“Some of the use of vitamins and saunas and all of those things certainly may be good general health practices, but they have nothing to do with the effective treatment of addiction as far as any literature has ever demonstrated.”
If the county Board of Supervisors approves the Narconon facility for Bouquet Canyon, it would be the largest Narconon facility in California.
The county Regional Planning Commission in March approved the project, but Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich called for the Board of Supervisors to hear the matter after hearing concerns about the project.
Several residents in the rural area oppose the project, citing safety concerns from addicts going in and out. Residents also feel that Narconon has tried to bully them to drop their opposition.
Ron and Sherry Howell, who live near the former boarding school site that would be used for the project, received a letter from an attorney for Narconon in January telling them to stop attacking the project or face legal consequences. They received the letter after submitting their written opposition to the project to the county Department of Regional Planning, and after Sherry Howell had written a letter to a local newspaper.
“It tells us that we’re dealing with somebody that doesn’t care what they do to people to intimidate them, to shut them up,” Ron Howell said.
Alice Benoit, who would be living near the facility, also feels that Narconon has targeted opponents of the project, including herself.
“They kind of like invade our Town Council meetings and shout us down,” she said.