Category Archives: News

Locals upset as building work starts on Scientology-backed drug rehab centre – TheJournal.ie

Florence Hamilton has lived in her home in Ballivor, Meath for over 30 years. She has reared her children there, her playschool business is based in her back garden. Children come and go as we chat. Fifty metres away, diggers shift huge mounds of earth and a man dressed all in black keeps a watchful eye.

There is hoarding and ‘Keep Out’ signs. Building work has started and the pounding of steel on stone is deafening. ‘Any queries should be sent to info@narconon.ie’ is written on a sign posted on the hoarding.

Narconon bills itself as a drug rehabilitation therapy linked to the Church of Scientology. It was confirmed at the start of this year that the centre was to open in Ballivor. The multi-million euro development will cater for 34 “students” and 18 staff.

According to its official website, Narconon “uses unique rehabilitation technology that gets to the problem at its source and provides a path for long-term success”.

But their methods have proven controversial.

Their drug detoxification programme uses high doses of vitamins along with long periods in dry saunas which it says is an attempt to flush toxins out of your body. The HSE has previously said that “Scientology’s drug treatment programme has no standing amongst medical professionals involved in the treatment of persons with alcohol and drug use disorders”.

A spokesperson at the National Drug Treatment Centre said:

“It comprises a series of interventions (‘Narconon’) with limited or no basis in a scientific understanding of human physiology and brain functioning and may potentially be harmful directly (with overuse of vitamins and other products) and indirectly in that persons are engaging in an intervention with no evidence of potential benefit for them.”

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Florence described the fear and anxiety she and many in the small community of Ballivor are experiencing. Her fear masks an anger. Hamilton, along with a large number of locals opposed to the Narconon centre, feel abandoned by the Government.

“I found out about it before Christmas and I didn’t believe it. I thought our Government would not allow it to happen because there is no supervision of what they do. It’s not going to sit easy with me, them being there. I run a preschool and my preschool is situated here. Having a rehab centre for drug addicts there – it doesn’t marry at all.

“Seemingly the powers that be don’t have the will to change it. They don’t care because it’s not on their doorstep. We had politicians down here. They were going to do this, that and the other, they got the photo opportunity and ran for the hills and left us to it.”

The noise of the drilling is now impacting on Hamilton and the children she and her colleagues look after, she says, and is something which she finds distressing.

“They’ve started here a week ago. The noise of the pounding and pulling up the foundations – my little ones who make a lot of noise themselves couldn’t take it – they had to come in from the play yard.”

TheJournal.ie travelled to Ballivor on Wednesday of this week and attempted to gauge the opinion of locals. We were soon to discover first hand how security deals with curious visitors.

Our video journalist started filming the outside of the building, outside the hoarding on public property, when he and this reporter were met by a man dressed head-to-toe in black with a cap pulled down over his face. He had earlier started filming protesters who were standing outside. The man walked out holding a camera in his hand.

Both journalists identified themselves as working for TheJournal.ie and asked why the man was filming protesters. He did not respond but instead walked back behind the 12-foot hoarding. The man’s camera then appeared over the top of the hoarding and started filming again. The protesters had long gone at this stage. TheJournal.ie once again asked the man why he was filming and what he thought about locals’ concerns. There was no response.

Attempts to find someone locally who is in favour of the centre to talk on the record proved unsuccessful. Business owners were concerned that any apparent support for Narconon could mean a reduction in their business. They also feared being ostracised in their community.

One business owner, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, said he had no problem with the centre coming in. He added that he had read up on it and urged locals in the area to do the same.

“I had people coming in saying, ‘isn’t it terrible’ and all this and I thought I’d read up on it. I think people are thinking that there’ll be drug addicts just wandering around the place and that’s not what it is going to be, I think.

“But I can’t put my face and my name out there because Ballivor is a very small place. Everyone knows everyone. I’d actually be risking my livelihood if I did that.”

Many people we approached told us that they did not know enough to comment on what was happening. Others said they didn’t want the Church of Scientology knowing their names or face.

Protests

Claire O’Mara is a member of the ‘Ballivor Says No’ group – a community programme attempting to resist Narconon coming into the village.

Her message is similar to Hamilton’s – Narconon and its Scientology links are not welcome in Ballivor.

“I’m very nervous. I didn’t know much about Scientology or Narconon but I spent days and weeks reading up on it and I’m worried. We have no idea why they chose such a small village. It’s a very small place. I have not spoken to anyone who wants it here. They’re going back home and parishioners if you can call them that, that they’re welcome. They’re not welcome. We are going to everything in our power to stop them.”

Local politicians have also been vocal on the matter. Sinn Féin TD Peader Tóibín said there was “a massive gap” in the government’s responsibilities, saying “there is absolutely no legislation and no regulation governing how these residential drug rehabilitation centres operate”.

Toibín said that, in addition to closer scrutiny of the centres themselves, the qualifications of the staff employed to administer the courses also needed to be regulated.

Fine Gael Councillor Noel French has been part of the movement against the centre. He spoke of his disappointment that the initial plans for a nursing home did not come to fruition and that this drug treatment centre was instead coming to a village of 1,700 people.

“My main reaction was it was an awful pity that the original planning for a nursing home was not being proceeded with. There are about 23 older people from the parish here who are in nursing homes outside the parish. It would have been a great boost for the community

“We are concerned about the size of the centre. There will be 34 addicts being here for rehab. I don’t have a problem with rehab but I am concerned about the size of it within the community.

“There are no standards here in Ireland with a drug rehab centre. We have raised this with all three TDs from Meath West and each have said they too would be concerned.”

TheJournal.ie contacted the Department of Health and asked it to clarify its position of the Narconon centre and the complete lack of regulations in the drug rehabilitation industry.

A spokeswoman for the department said: “The Department of Health would advise anyone seeking treatment for addiction to contact their local HSE Addiction Service.

“The Department has no jurisdiction over agencies that provide private addiction treatment services. There is currently no provision in legislation for the regulation or inspection of residential treatment or rehabilitation centres specialising in addiction.

“Organisations which provide addiction services and are funded by the HSE are required to meet minimum standards in the delivery of services across a range of criteria which form the basis of any service level agreement.

“The HSE has informed the Department of Health that there is no evidence to suggest that the drug treatment programme, provided by the organisation referred to would meet with any of the criteria set out by the HSE for agencies that provide addiction services on its behalf.

The HSE considers that the organisation’s drug treatment programme comprises a series of interventions with limited or no basis in a scientific understanding of human physiology and brain functioning.”

TheJournal.ie contacted Narconon and asked if it felt it should be regulated by the State and asked its opinion on the protesters’ concerns. The HSE’s stance on the treatment was also questioned by Narconon.

A spokesman for the group said: “Narconon representatives have been meeting with local Ballivor residents over the past number of weeks and each meeting has been courteous and residents who have engaged are interested in the centre. Narconon has sent an information booklet to each house in Ballivor on which are email and telephone contact details if anyone in Ballivor has any questions or concerns

“Narconon follows the laws and regulations of the country in which they operate. Narconon prides itself is setting and maintaining the highest of standards in all aspects of the programme.

“This HSE statement is taken out of context and does not include that the person making the statement also said under cross examination that he did not know anything about the Narconon programme and had never met anyone who had done the programme.”

http://www.thejournal.ie/narconon-scientology-3979543-Apr2018/

“Disturbing: Cult’s Treatment Plan Puts Pressures on Addicts” – Sunday World

A controversial drug rehab firm linked to Scientology uses high-pressure sales tactics to get addicts to sign up to its £18,000 detox programme

Cult-linked Narconon, who plan to build a €5.6 million rehab centre in a small village in Co Meath, flew two staff members to Dublin within days of being contacted by our undercover reporter, who was posing as a drug-user looking for help.

In a special investigation, the Sunday World found how staff placed huge pressure on the self-confessed ‘addict’ to sign up to their controversial detoxification course.

They even advised our undercover reporter to get into debt using her credit card to pay for the expensive programme.

She was urged to immediately walk away from her job and partner during a meeting at a Dublin cafe.

She received a total of 54 texts and 11 phone calls in just 24 hours as they plied on the pressure for her to leave immediately for a UK facility.

The encounter came after our reporter contacted the organisation asking for help with a fictitious drug problem.

They were so keen to have her admitted they jetted over from England to escort her from Dublin.

She made contact with the facility after filling out an online form on its website.

Almost immediately she received an email from a staff member called Evan Perkins.

Within minutes of replying she received a text via WhatsApp where she was asked her age and her occupation.

Posing as a young marketing professional told him she was struggling with a daily cocaine and painkiller addiction.

Within ten minutes Mr Perkins, a former HR manager with Narconon’s Californian centre, called her.

After questioning her further about her professional and personal life, she was told she was “suitable” for the programme.

He explained how the detoxification process would begin “straight away”.

Due to Narconon not being fully set up in Ireland yet, she was told she would have to travel to the organisation’s UK clinic.

Set on four acres of countryside, the West Sussex mansion is called the ‘New life Detox Centre’.

There she would receive high doses of vitamins to help cleanse the drugs from her system, spend up to five hours a day in a sauna to “sweat” the cocaine from her body and receive mindfulness type therapy.

She would also complete a course on helping her remove “anti-social personalities” from her life.

When the three month detox plan was completed, she would receive career and life guidance a member of Narconon staff, for up to 18 months, she was told.

After expressing concern about telling family, friends and work colleagues about her addiction, she was advised that she could do so, via email if she wished, when she was admitted to the facility.

He also told her that a qualified doctor, connected to the organisation, would construct a sick note stating “whatever she wanted”. She could then post this to her employer.

“We could go down the line of mental health, or stress, if that was OK with you,” Mr Perkins said.

It was only when she asked about the cost of the treatment that she was told it came with an eye-watering £18,000 price tag.

“In any other treatment facility it would be £10,000 to £20,000 a month, but this is £18,000 for the 12 weeks,” he said. “As well as doing all the steps you get assigned someone from Narconon to help with your life and career for up to 18 months after you leave.”

She informed Mr Perkins she could not afford to pay for the treatment up front.

He then told her: “We will work out with you the best way that will work, you can put a down payment of some size and we can work out a way for you to get a loan or (credit) cards or whatever is comfortable for you, and the organisation, to pay it in a way that works.”

Mr Perkins added: “Our first priority is that we want to help you, the end game.

‘And I’ll just tell you frankly what my end game would be. To fly in (to Dublin) on Wednesday and fly (back) with you on Thursday.

“I can have the team on our end start preparing you a letter, if that will help. You should start putting the pieces in place to pretty much come right away.”

Our reporter met Mr Perkins on Wednesday afternoon at a Dublin city centre cafe.
He jetted in alongside another member of Narconon staff, to meet her.
His companion, an American woman, called herself Reggie.

It was during this bizarre meeting that both well dressed colleagues placed a considerable amount of pressure on her to leave the country and receive treatment.

She was also advised against telling her partner that she planned to leave Ireland.

“Once you are there you are going to get some stability, you are going to have some reality and then we can sit with you and go through it, and you can either do it by email or call,” Reggie said.

She then told her: “Don’t you think it would be better if you just called in to work now and said, I’m not feeling very well, I need to go home.

“It would actually be better. There’s so much stress right now, it would be better if you just stayed with us and worked out the finer details and then go back with us back on the plane. That would be the easiest thing.”

When she said she wanted time to think about joining the programme, and asked for some time alone, Reggie told her: “The problem is when you are by yourself then comes in lots of problems and the person then makes wrong decisions at that point.”

During the strange one hour meeting our reporter was also handed two packets of vitamin based capsules, which ingredients included magnesium and niacin – an organic compound heavily used in Scientology’s ‘purification’ programme.She was told to take them to help with the “stress and anxiety” of leaving Ireland to receive treatment.

When questioned whether it would be possible to take anti-depressants to help with her mood during her time at the clinic, she was told that she could not do so.

“Your depression will more or less disappear on the first day….the vitamins lift your mood massively,” Reggie said.

Before leaving the meeting she was again advised on obtaining credit, whilst in Narconon’s care, to pay for the treatment.

Later that afternoon she was bombarded with texts and calls from Mr Perkins.

In one text he said: “Please answer my call. It is not good for u to be in your head”.

She then informed Mr Perkins she had changed her mind about signing up to the programme.

He responded by sending further texts and attempting to contact her by phone.

In total she received 54 texts and 11 missed phone calls in 24 hours after the meeting.

Independent Dublin city councillor Christy Burke, who has helped hundreds of constituents obtain addiction treatment in the drug ravaged north inner city, said he was appalled at Narconon’s methods and claims at treating drug addicts.

He said: “This is not the way those suffering from drug addiction should be receiving treatment.

“Having helped many constituents obtain addiction services, it is clear what this organisation is saying goes against all medical advice, and almost going into dangerous territory.

“It just comes across as a shady cult.”

Speaking to the Sunday World ex-Scientologist John McGhee – who spent three years in the grip of the cult – said he was not surprised by the tactics used by Narconon to recruit vulnerable people to the treatment programme.

The Offaly-based embalmer, who has been campaigning against the Ballivor proposed centre, said he believes the centre will be a “recruitment tool” for Scientology.

“They keep trying to distance themselves from Narconon but there is no distance, it is Scientology by another name,” he said.

“When I was involved I was regularly asked to give donations to Narconon.

“The programme that they put the addicts on, they put me on when I joined, and I’ve never done drugs.

“It’s like a purification rundown and it’s supposed to rid your body of residual toxins to get you on what they call the bridge to total freedom, which costs about €400,000 to complete

“But the first step is exactly the same as what they are trying to get addicts on, where they take the high doses of vitamins and go into the sauna.

“This programme offers no cure for anything. It’s all about money, nothing else. It offers no cure for anything.

“If it’s offered to a drug addict whose liver or immune system is compromised they could end up with permanent organ damage. It can even result in death, as has happened in the past.”

In 2012 three patients at Narconon’s chief facility in Oklahoma died within a nine month period.

The deaths resulted in a police investigation and authorities later revoked the centre’s permit for medical detoxification. Staff were also refused counselling certificates.

The addiction treatment – backed by movie stars Tom Cruise and John Travolta – involves ingesting a high-dose cocktail of vitamins before cooking in a sauna for up to five hours and has been outlawed in the US state of Oklahoma.
In Ireland it has been dismissed by HSE experts and the Department of Heath, who said the treatment has “limited or no basis” in the science of human physiology and brain functioning.

However due to a lack of legislation the private facility is free to set up and run in Ireland without being monitored.

It was confirmed last month that Narconon would open a 34 bed facility in the remote Meath village of Ballivor on a proposed nursing home site.

The news came less than two months after 200 people took to the streets against the plans to turn the former national school site into a residential drug treatment centre.

Bosses of the US-born project have since claimed the centre bring will bring in €850,000 per year to the local community, on top of six full-time jobs.

However locals, business owners and politicians have fiercely vented their opposition to the new clinic, and voiced fears it could be a “recruiting ground” for Scientologists.

Scientology-linked group’s ‘drug treatment centre’ won’t be subject to inspections – TheJournal.ie

An opposition TD has said he plans to introduce new legislation to regulate private addiction services unless the government takes action urgently.

Peadar Toibín, Sinn Féin TD for Meath West, was speaking in the wake of confirmation from a controversial Scientology-linked group, Narconon, that it plans to move ahead with a contentious “drug treatment centre” in the Meath village of Ballivor, which has already been met with significant local opposition.

Yesterday, a statement from a PR firm that also handles press for the Church of Scientology in Ireland confirmed that Narconon planned to open a new “multi-million euro facility” at the site of a former school.

Thirty-four ‘students’ would be catered for at the facility, the statement said, adding that the programme was “entirely drug-free – it utilises and tolerates no drugs”.

“Narconon is a non-profit, non-religious, drug rehabilitation programme aimed at those looking to get off alcohol and drugs and helping them lead better lives,” the group claimed.

Narconon already operates in the US, UK and a number of other countries around the world – but this would be the first such centre in Ireland.

The group’s methods have proven highly contentious. Their drug detoxification programme uses high doses of vitamins along with long periods in dry saunas, which, it says, helps to flush toxins out of a person’s body.

Narconon-providing facilities have also been involved in wrongful death lawsuits in the US. There were four deaths in three years at one facility in the US – although these have not been linked specifically to the treatment administered during the programme.

The Department of Health said in response to a query from TheJournal.ie that it had no jurisdiction over agencies that provide private addiction treatment services, adding:

There is currently no provision in legislation for the regulation or inspection of residential treatment or rehabilitation centres specialising in addiction.

There are already a number of such centres around the country run by various organisations – including religious congregations.

“Organisations which provide addiction services and are funded by the HSE are required to meet minimum standards in the delivery of services across a range of criteria which form the basis of any service level agreement,” the Department’s statement said.

The HSE has informed the Department of Health that there is no evidence to suggest that the drug treatment programme, provided by the organisation referred to would meet with any of the criteria set out by the HSE for agencies that provide addiction services on its behalf.

The Department did offer this rebuke of the treatments offered by Narconon:

The organisation’s drug treatment programme comprises a series of interventions with limited or no basis in a scientific understanding of human physiology and brain functioning.

And it advised:

The Department of Health would advise anyone seeking treatment for addiction to contact their local HSE Addiction Service.

Toibín said the fact that there was currently no regulation governing how residential drug rehabilitation centres operated represented a “massive gap” in the government’s responsibilities.

If they were regulated people would be able to have confidence that, right across the country, not just at this site in Meath, that individuals in this vulnerable state would be protected.

Toibín said that in addition to closer scrutiny of the centres themselves, the qualifications of the staff employed to administer the courses also needed to be regulated.

Dr Garrett McGovern, a specialist in addiction medicine who runs clinics in Dublin city centre, claimed that some non-HSE-endorsed drug rehabilitation centres already in operation did not use evidence-based methods.

Yesterday’s statement on behalf of Narconon, for instance, criticised the use of “replacement drugs” to treat addiction. To focus on one specific substance, currently opiate substitution therapy – methadone – is the most common course of action used to treat heroin addiction in Ireland.

There are currently around 10,000 people receiving treatment for opiate dependence in the State.

“The research is quite clear – opiate substitution treatment is far superior to any other intervention in terms of outcomes,” McGovern told TheJournal.ie.

“You have to remember what outcomes are – don’t get into the trap of ‘you’re addicted to one drug and now you are addicted to another drug’ – that’s not how we measure outcomes.

“We measure outcomes on physical health, mental health, levels of injecting, transition of blood-borne viruses and infections, social functioning – that’s how we measure whether someone is getting better.

If we are to get real about this, if we are to suddenly say that being on a medication or off a medication is the success of an intervention for a disease, well then why are diabetics on insulin for life?

I don’t want to get into that whole trap of comparing drug addiction with other diseases – but the point is valid that there are many, many people in this country who are on life-saving medications and on them for life because they work to reduce symptoms.

McGovern said that while he had serious problems with the methods employed at some addiction centres currently in operation, it may prove very difficult to introduce appropriate regulation.

“I’m not against idea of regulation – but I wouldn’t like to see regulation where people end up getting less access to treatment,” McGovern said.

There are places that are saving people’s lives even though they are not particularly faithful to the evidence – there’s a lot of religious places for instance, they treat people that no-one else will touch. They might not do it in a very scientific way.

Whatever instrument is used to impose new regulations in this sector, he said, “will need to be well calibrated”.

Toibín said that he was conscious of the fact that many organisations do good work, adding: ”This is a tightrope that we will have to tread as we compose our legislation.”

“There needs to be some level of minimum standards and oversight,” he said.

“These are the most vulnerable people you can meet, and there’s a responsibility by the State to protect them.”

If legislation is brought in to govern inspections, it won’t be ready in time for the expected opening of the Ballivor Narconon centre in May.

Speaking about Narconon specifically, Toibín said:

It would be very foolish of any organisation to spend money in the State that, if regulated, may not be able to continue. I’d ask them to consider what legislation is coming down the tracks and to keep that in their thought process.

A consultant psychiatrist in substance misuse from the National Drug Treatment Centre previously told TheJournal.ie that interventions of the kind used by Narconon had no basis in science.

The doctor said:

Scientology’s drug treatment programme has no standing amongst medical professionals involved in the treatment of persons with alcohol and drug use disorders.

It comprises a series of interventions (‘Narconon’) with limited or no basis in a scientific understanding of human physiology and brain functioning and may potentially be harmful directly (with overuse of vitamins and other products) and indirectly in that persons are engaging in an intervention with no evidence of potential benefit for them.

The Ballivor Narconon centre is expected to begin operations at the site of a former national school in the village in late May this year.

Hundreds of people turned out to protest the planned centre in January. Yesterday, a group of locals attended Leinster House to give a presentation to TDs about their concerns.

They also handed in a petition protesting the presence of the centre in their community, which was accepted by an official from the Department of Health.

http://www.thejournal.ie/narconon-new-laws-meath-3888057-Mar2018/