By KATH GANNAWAY
TWO former Narconon employees have said claims there is no drug use at the East Warburton drug rehabilitation centre are rubbish.
Narconon is proposing to move their isolated East Warburton drug rehabilitation centre into Warburton township, close to homes and the local primary school.
A campaign opposing the move is gaining momentum as reports of unauthorised drug and alcohol use by clients are starting to emerge.
Yarra Valley resident Jane* worked at Narconon for 19 months two years ago.
She told the Mail she was astounded at claims by Narconon deputy Executive Director Andrew Cunningham and spokeswoman and board member Dr. Nerida James that there are no drugs or alcohol on the property, clients are off drugs and posed no risk when they do the program and that Narconon is not an arm of the Church of Scientology.
Paul Schofield was a Scientologist when he worked at East Warburton in 2007 and 2008.
“If you put an ineffective drug rehabilitation program in the middle of a town like Warburton you are going to have people doing drugs, and going and getting alcohol,” he said.
“A typical scenario is someone will go to a doctor and get weaned off methodone so they can come completely off it and walk into Narconon and go through the rest of their withdrawal.
“But you can have someone walking in having had a hit of heroin half an hour ago.
“They get put straight into the withdrawal cottage and it’s quite often going through a fairly hefty withdrawal at that point,” he said.
He said while Narconon tried to ensure no-one was under the influence of drugs or alcohol clients would get people to smuggle them in.
“It is always a problem and it will be worse if they move into Warburton,” he said.
Jane had a similar story to tell.
She worked night shift working with clients in withdrawal. She told the Mail she had no experience or qualifications in dealing with people who were often seriously ill.
“I was virtually a drug virgin, looking after people who were coming off heroin and ice,” she said.
She said she often had to deal with people in a psychotic state.
“They would lose it, and my job was to calm them down,” she said describing some of the physical and mental symptoms they experienced.
Her shift was Monday to Friday and she said she would regularly come in on a Monday to be told one or more of her clients had “blown”.
“They would have had family, friends, cousins visit and you would get back and they are obviously under the influence again,” she said.
Jane told the Mail she was not diligent in delivering the program which is based on Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s teachings.
“I feel bad that I was not doing what I was supposed to do, but I didn’t believe in it,” she said.
“I’m concerned about their claims there’s no drug use, and about it being so close to the school.
Dr. Nerida James has refuted the claims made by Mr. Schofield and by Jane* who was identified to her, saying they are embittered former employees of Get Off Drugs Naturally who were dismissed because they failed in their jobs.
“If he is claiming there were incidents of drugs smuggled in, under his watch, it was because he FAILED as an executive to provide a safe environment where they wouldn’t be,” she said.
She said while the Narconon method is based on the writings of L. Ron Hubbard, the program is entirely secular.
She said Jane’s claims there is no medical supervision is incorrect and that they have a nurse on site and a paramedic on site when students first start the program.
She said urine tests do not require medical training and that blood pressure is checked on occasion as part of improving health.
She said while clients “blowing” may have occurred in the past on an occasion, they now have two qualified security officers on during Sunday visits which has eradicated such occurrences.
Dr. James said all visitors have to check in and approval needs to be given for presents, which are screened.
Dr. James said they are happy to consult with any concerned neighbours individually and said they held an open day recently where over 100 people toured the East Warburton facility.
“We are a good neighbour in our current premises and will continue to be so,” she said.
*Jane’s real name which has been withheld at her request, but was made available to Dr. James.