OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A Church of Scientology organization
is urging the Oklahoma Legislature to establish a state
agency to investigate abuse of psychiatric patients.
The Citizens Commission on Human Rights issued a news release
Thursday, accusing the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health
of condoning or covering up the killing of mental patients.
The commission said the Mental Health Department refuses
to investigate thoroughly 11 suspicious deaths at state
Mental Health spokeswoman Sarah Dunn denied that. "On any
deaths, we investigate and do a check on all of them, we
do," she said.
"The department denies all those allegations. We do look
into all deaths and all inquiries," she said.
"We follow all procedures. In all cases, in all deaths
we follow through," she said, declining further comment.
The commission is asking the Legislature to establish an
agency to investigate psychiatric abuse deaths.
"Citizens of Oklahoma are being allowed to die, or are
being killed outright, in state mental institutions, with
no attempt being made by the Mental Health Department to
find the cause and put an end to it," said Sanford Block,
the commission's executive director.
He made the allegation in a letter to Rep. Jeff Hamilton,
chairman of the House Committee on Health and Mental Health.
Hamilton promised to look into the deaths to "see if there's
any substance to the charges. If there is, we can review
it with the department at that time," he said.
Hamilton noted that both the Citizens Commission on Human
Rights and the Narconon-Chilocco New Life Center are affiliated
with the Church of Scientology.
Narconon is a controversial substance abuse treatment center
The commission began investigating the treatment of Oklahoma
psychiatric patients after the Mental Health Department
refused to certify Narconon.
Narconon appealed, and Oklahoma County Judge Leamon Freeman
ruled that mental health officials were biased against Narconon.
The Mental Health Department then hired Tulsa psychiatrist
John Chelf to conduct an independent review.
The Mental Health Commission has scheduled a hearing for
Friday to resolve the Narconon case.