Father Calls Daughter's Death At McAlester Rehab Facility Preventable
McALESTER, Oklahoma - An Oklahoma rehab facility is under fire following the deaths of three patients.
In the past 12 months, three people have died while being treated at Narconon Arrowhead near McAlester.
The most recent, 20-year-old Stacy Murphy from Owasso, was found dead Thursday morning.
"This is a drug addict," Robert Murphy said as he showed a photo of his daughter, Stacy. "It's not the perception you think of a drug addict, and people have to realize, it can be their own child."
Robert Murphy is coming to grips with Stacy's death.
He said she was a vibrant, bubbly girl with the world at her fingertips -- until she fell in with the wrong crowd.
"Stacy grew up in the church, she did the sports," Robert Murphy said. "So sweet and so bubbly, you just don't know what the struggle is that [was] going on inside of her and she was seeking help."
Robert Murphy said when Stacy's prescription drug addiction escalated to heroin, she agreed to seek treatment at Narconon Arrowhead, a drug and alcohol rehab facility with treatments inspired by teachings of the Church of Scientology.
"We went there for her to be cured, safe," Robert Murphy said. "She had so much potential."
Stacy was found dead Thursday morning.
Her father said she sneaked in drugs to the facility following a one- day visit home.
"My first thought was, ‘Well, Stacy did what she did to herself,'" Robert Murphy said. "But after hearing what [Narconon] did know, there was no reason for her to die."
Murphy said Narconon employees knew Stacy was on the verge of an overdose, but instead of providing her with the medical attention she needed, his daughter was put in a room and left to die.
"They did not call us as parents; they did not call a medical team," Robert Murphy said. "There was a shift change apparently at 7 o'clock. Nobody found her until 9:20."
Two other patients have died at Narconon this year, including another Oklahoman, Gabriel Graves.
"In Narconon's 20 years of operation, there [have] been three deaths at the Narconon facility and those have been within the last 12 months," CEO Gary W. Smith said in an email to News On 6. "The rampant abuse of prescription medications and drugs like Spice, bath salts and host of other designer drugs has presented new and greater challenges for treatment providers."
The Pittsburg County Sheriff's office, along with the OSBI are investigating all three deaths.
Pittsburg County Sheriff Joel Kerns said criminal or negligence charges are possible, though the investigation is still the early stages.
"We just hate it for these families ," Kerns said. "I just feel for them, that they've lost a child."
And for Stacy's family, Robert Murphy said it will continue to cope, while searching for answers and demanding change.
"All I can say is it's not safe," Robert Murphy said. "My daughter's death could have been prevented, easily, easily. And I don't want her death to be in vain.
"They don't have a physician on 24-hour staff. I've been told he only goes in once a week. There's procedures that either have to be changed or this place has to be shut down."
When News On 6 reached out to Narconon, Smith supplied the following statement:
"Out of respect for the law and to remain in full compliance with 42 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) which are laws specifically designed to protect past and present clients or their family members right to privacy, I cannot disclose any information about past clients.
It is always deeply saddening when drug addiction takes a life or destroys a family. It hurts when a young person passes away before their time. For the family the pain of losing a loved one to addiction is unimaginable and our deepest sympathy goes out to those families. Our prayers are with them. For those who have committed their lives to saving people from drug and alcohol addiction the loss of not being able to help a person overcome addiction takes an emotional toll on us as well. It is a sad day for everyone when something as unfortunate and devastating as this occurs.
There are very precise local and state guidelines established with law enforcement and state agencies that come into play if and when there are any critical incidents concerning a person in our, or any other healthcare provider's, care. In the event that these circumstances arise, Narconon Arrowhead fully cooperates with these agencies.
Narconon Arrowhead is an established Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Center that has been in operation in Oklahoma since 1992. The Center employs 190 rehabilitation and nursing staff and has serviced over 10,000 people in its rehabilitation program since it was first licensed and opened its doors over twenty years ago. Narconon has remained accredited by the nationally recognized accreditation agency, CARF (Commission on The Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) for 20 years and is certified by the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse to deliver non-medical detoxification services."
According to the Centers for Disease Control, drug overdose death rates in the United States have more than tripled since 1990. In 2008, more than 36,000 people died from drug overdoses, and most of these deaths were caused by prescription drugs, the agency reported.
The Oklahoman reported earlier this year that drug overdoses now kill more Oklahomans than motor vehicle accidents — an average of two per day, and drug overdoses in the state have more than doubled in the past 10 years.
Oklahoma is No. 1 in prescription painkiller abuse, according to a 2011 study.
The stigma attached to drug abuse is one that Robert Murphy said he wishes on no family.
"It's embarrassing to say your child is a drug addict or an alcoholic … but this is everybody's daughter, son, father, brother. People need help," Robert Murphy said."They're not crazy people. They're addicted, and sometimes no fault of their own. But if it happens, it happens, and they need help. Safe help."