Future of rehab center unknown

The Enquirer, Michigan/April 19, 2008

Narconon Stone Hawk's drug rehabilitation clients at the Pennfield Township inpatient treatment facility will be relocated by May.

The center's approximately 75 patients will be moved to Albion's Narconon Stone Hawk East facility, President Per Wickstrom and Executive Director Eric Tenorio said.

Narconon Stone Hawk is a private-pay drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. Clients shell out about $29,000 for typically three to six months' worth of treatment. Treatment includes classroom lessons, a vitamin regime, exercise and two to three weeks' detoxification in a sauna.

"There are people who sweat out blue stuff, green stuff, stuff out of their eyes," Tenario said. "Just that right there is what sets us apart. After that there really is no other plan that has an actual technology on how to get someone off drugs."

Wickstrom said patients are being moved so repairs can be made to the Pennfield site. Officials plan to replace the boiler. The carpet and tile also could be replaced and a fresh coat of paint is needed.

"We need to do some repairs," Wickstrom said.

There is no guarantee, however, that clients will be returned to Pennfield. But if their clients outnumber the 120 beds available at the Albion site, they might consider it, Wickstrom said.

"If we don't have the need, why would we come back and lease it?" he said.

Pennfield Township records indicate the property is owned by the leasing group TIA Corp., of which Wickstrom said he is a board member.

Wickstrom would not say if the board was considering selling the St. Mary's Lake property. The 10.7 acres has an estimated market value of $881,660, according to Pennfield Township Assessor Dan Brunner.

Brunner said he spoke to a Realtor or appraiser in March who wanted some information about the property.

"It sounds like they are exploring options on it at this point, but we don't know what they are going to do," he said.

Pennfield Township Zoning Administrator Russ Wicklund said the property is residential with a conditional use variance that has allowed the addiction treatment facility to operate since 2002. Another drug treatment facility could operate on the land, or it could be developed into single-family dwellings or planning unit developments.

The conditional use variance requires that Narconon officials have regular committee meetings with other St. Mary's Lake residents to discuss neighborhood complaints on, for example, noise issues, Pennfield Township Treasurer Barb Phillips said.

Although one meeting was held, Phillips said she has had difficulty contacting Narconon officials to follow up.

"I have not been able to get a hold of them," she said. "I've sent numerous e-mails."

Narconon's shifting of patients means Albion Community Ambulance, or ACA, will have to leave the Albion site, formerly Trillium Hospital at 805 W. Erie St.

"The Narconon Stone Hawk rehabilitation center wants to use the whole campus, including the area our ambulance was in," ACA Public Affairs Manager Joyce Williams said.

The ACA has been renting space month-to-month since its lease ran out in December, Williams said. It was informed March 25 it would need to move out by April 30.

"What we're probably going to do is rent some temporary space until we can find something," Williams said. "There's nothing contentious about it. We've been expecting this to happen."

Contention has surrounded Narconon, however, because its methodology is based on the research and developments of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. Several celebrity members, including Tom Cruise, Priscilla Presley and John Travolta, have added notoriety to the religion.

Narconon clients are not required to become members of the Church of Scientology, Wickstrom and Tenario said. They are, however, expected to complete the lessons in eight textbooks written by Hubbard to graduate.

They said the facility has a 71 percent success rate among graduates, a number tracked by a staff member and former graduate who makes regular follow-up calls to clients for two years after graduation.

"Where there's a willingness to do it, and they actually do it correctly, every time we win," Tenorio said.

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