Health officials shut down Narconon drug rehab centre

Treatments based on Scientology

The Montreal Gazette/April 18, 2012

Health officials have ordered the Narconon rehabilitation centre for drug addicts in Trois Rivières to evacuate and relocate its 32 residents, citing concerns over procedures that "may represent a risk to health" and a lack of doctors on staff.

Following an investigation into the centre's activities by the Centre Québécois d'agrément, an independent body mandated to monitor quality in health care, the agency for health and social services for the Mauricie Region said Tuesday it does not intend to certify Narconon.

The centre, among the largest of 50 Narconon centres in 22 countries, bases its treatment on the teachings of the Church of Scientology, headquartered in California, giving its "students" high doses of niacin and having them sit in saunas for about five hours a day. The rest of the treatment consists of "training routines" based on the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, in which patients perform the same tasks over and over.

Residents in Trois Rivières paid $25,000 to $30,000 for their treatment, which lasted on average three to five months.

Marc Lacour, the director of the Mauricie Health and Social Services Agency, said he had received several complaints about the centre in the last few months. But the agency's decision not to certify was based on visits to the Narconon centre in February, and the recommendations of a national committee of experts convened in March to discuss the case. Though the centre has been in operation since 2005, it was only this year that certification by the agency became mandatory for all rehabilitation centres, Lacour explained.

"The criteria (for certification) relate to safety, sanitation, nutrition, insurance, administrative practices, an ethical code and the approaches and techniques used by the centre," Lacour said. "The approach used by Narconon is not recognized in Quebec, and it was mainly on that basis that the agency decided to relocate its residents."

Most of the residents, Lacour said, are from other provinces of Canada, particularly British Columbia, and the United States. Most have been relocated to other Narconon centres south of the border.

Lacour said Narconon has 10 days, as of April 13, to comment before the agency makes its final decision on certification. Narconon also has 60 days to appeal the decision at the Tribunal administratif du Québec. In the meantime, Narconon will no longer be able to operate in the Mauricie region.

"For sure, if we came to this conclusion (about Narconon), we worry about what may be happening elsewhere," Lacour said, adding Narconon has been banned in France.

David Love, a former patient and staff member of Narconon in Trois Rivières who has been tirelessly campaigning against the organization since he left it in 2009, saw the closing as a victory, but not the end of his mission.

Love has filed a complaint against Narconon and the Church of Scientology with the Quebec Human Rights Commission. André Ahern, the director of legal Affairs for Narconon Trois Rivières, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

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