Rehab center proposed

L. Ron Hubbard's teachings would be basis for clinic

Traverse City Record Eagle, Michigan/October 1, 2006
By Patrick Sullivan

Manistee -- A clinic that would rehabilitate alcoholics and drug addicts based on the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard is proposed for the site of a former nursing home.

A public hearing for a special-use permit application for Narconon Stone Hawk Rehabilitation Center is scheduled before the Manistee city planning commission Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

Kate Wickstrom, who runs Narconon facilities near Battle Creek and Albion and also purchased Sugar Loaf Resort in Leelanau County last year, filed the special-use permit application in August to renovate the former TenderCare facility, a three-story red brick building near the Manistee water tower on the south side of the city.

The application requests approval for up to a 120-bed facility, but Wickstrom said the facility would likely contain fewer than 100 beds. It's expected to create 60 to 80 jobs.

Wickstrom said Narconon's connection to Scientology, a controversial religion founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, shouldn't concern residents.

"We're purely secular," Wickstrom said. "We don't practice any religion here; we do take people to Mass on Sundays for those that are Catholic."

Narconon views addiction as a learned behavior rather than a disease or a mental illness and doesn't use drugs in the treatment of addiction, according to the permit application. Rather, patients are treated with vitamins, minerals, oils and saunas.

Tracy Bothwell, maintenance supervisor at Horizon Pointe, a senior residence across the street from the proposed rehab center, said residents there were about 70 percent against the idea until a Narconon representative came to Horizon last week to answer questions. After, he said, residents were about 70 percent in favor of the facility.

"They are concerned about the type of individual that can be there," Bothwell said. But "when (Narconon patients) sign out, they're basically driven to the airport and taken back to where they came from, or they're picked up by their family."

According to minutes from a September planning commission meeting, the facility would not be a lock-down facility and would not accept convicted felons.

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