Rest In Peace
Courtney Graham “Cody” Bates
August 5, 1977 – August 27, 2007
One of the most disturbing Narconon related complaints I have come to know concerns the 2007 negligent death of 30 year old Courtney “Cody” Bates at an unlicensed “unbranded” program run by Scientologist Richard E. Prescott.
Before I get to Prescott and his now defunct programs, we at Narconon Reviews want to share with you the story of Cody Bates on this 6th Anniversary of his death.
Drug addiction can happen to anyone. Pretty early on, it becomes a family issue. Getting help requires willingness on the part of the addict and support from loved ones to get there. Often it is the family finding and arranging the intervention or arrival to the recovery program. Surely the hopes, dreams, and desire for freedom from addiction are all that an addict and his or her loved ones see at the time one leaves for a program that promises to deliver a drug free life. And so it was for Cody Bates and his family. The ravages of drugs had taken their toll and Cody was ready to get and stay clean.
His mother had done a search on the internet. She called the toll free number about a promising program mentioned on a web site she’d come across. That call reached the infamous Holly Conklin. Among the multiple jobs Conklin held in the rehab intervention field at that time, were titles such as “Lead registrar/Counselor” for New Life Center SF, as well as “Director of Public Promotion” for Narconon.
It was Holly Conklin who told Cody’s mother that New Life Center would be perfect for her son. That he would be seen by a physician and medically supervised while he went through medical detox. That he would be safe there and cared for. That he would learn how to overcome his addiction and learn life and job skills to help him reenter society after completion. This program, Conklin said, cost less than expensive facilities because the accommodations were simple, just the basics, but it provided more time for recovery than the average 30 day program and the steps that most other programs lack. Cody’s mother was won over by these promises and she arranged to get Cody out to San Francisco right away. He was to attend New Life Center San Francisco for what was supposed to be an extended program of medical detoxification, residential rehabilitation, along with vocational rehabilitation life and job skills.
Holly Conklin comes across as a caring and sincere individual and I have no doubt that she really cares for these people she attempts to help. But she cares more about getting a signup and has a tendency to lie.
Even though Narconon is Scientology, Holly never states that to inquiring people. And with New Life, she never even mentioned that the program was based upon Narconon. Holly also has an extensive criminal background and is a convicted felon but all this was not known back in 2007. Cody’s mother had no reason at the time to doubt Holly, or the other the staff she spoke to once Cody arrived. They all sounded so concerned and helpful.
Cody’s mother was instructed to have him bring with him a prescription for medicine used for detoxification of opiates. She was promised that it would be filled there and administered for medical detoxification by medical personal and his detoxification supervised by a physician. Side effects of withdrawal from opiates, including heroin, can be severe, and Cody’s mother was promised he would be kept under observation throughout the withdrawal experience.
Cody arrived on Friday, August 24, 2007. On or about August 25th, this medicine was administered to Cody. On August 25th or 26th, Cody’s mother received a call from staff stating that Cody had made threats, while in the withdrawal process, to hurt or kill himself. The mother made it clear that staff needed to take this seriously and make sure Cody was under 24/7 observation by medical staff to make sure nothing happened to him. Staff finally agreed to put Cody on “24 hour suicide watch” but the staff failed to observe and attend to Cody as promised. On August 27th, the very thing his mother warned staff to beware of happened. Unattended by staff and in the midst of severe withdrawal symptoms, Cody committed suicide by hanging.
Let’s face it. No one sends their loved one to a rehab facility to die. I can’t even imagine the suffering and shock that parents of those who have died at Narconon and related programs have had to endure. Death is not even supposed to be a part of the equation! Yet, the rare times it does happen, negligence is usually found at the root of it.
In this case, Richard Prescott operated this Criminon/Narconon program out of multiple Single Room Occupancy hotels, with the withdrawal part located at 219 7th Street in downtown San Francisco, under the auspices of The Church of Scientology’s Criminon International.
As the Association For Better Living and Education International boasted on their NEWS page:
In coordination with Criminon International, Rich located a new facility for the program to operate in as the former one was far from ideal — mainly because it was situated in the heart of a drug-infested neighborhood — not the best environment for former addicts to rehabilitate.
Once found, the new facility was renovated, cleaned up, repainted and turned into a model facility for helping and rehabilitating the parolees and homeless of San Francisco — and all by the former program’s staff and students.
After the renovations and refit, the staff and students from the former program moved in. They decided to call the program the San Francisco New Life Center.
The center has also been granted their license as a drug and alcohol recovery center by the California State Department of Drug and Alcohol. It now operates at an average of 50 students on the program at a time, and the center is still expanding — now having control of over 200 beds throughout 4 hotels in the area.
Well, the truth is, the California State Department of Drug and Alcohol never granted any residential or detoxification facility license to Prescott, nor New Life Center San Francisco, nor it’s legal entity, Social Betterment Development Company (SBDC), because Prescott never applied for one. During his days as Executive Director of Narconon Northern California, he learned how to skirt the state rules, or so he thought.
Prescott’s SBDC had many names for its “facility” – New Life Center San Francisco, New Life Recovery Center San Francisco, New Life Recovery Center, San Francisco New Life Center, and Clear Mind Services are just a few. They began in 2004, unlicensed and unregulated, pretending to be a homeless shelter program with life skills, all the while delivering the Narconon program without a license.
The mother of Cody Bates filed her lawsuit in November 2007.
The Amended Complaint, Clay v. Social Betterment Development Company.
First cause of action: General negligence.
Plaintiff: Carlynn Clay.
Defendants: Social Betterment Development Company (SBDC), dba New Life Center of San Francisco, Jim Steiner, Richard Prescott, 221 7th Street, LLC.
Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco, added the names of those parties previously unnamed. Later, Cody’s father was added to the case as an interventor plaintiff.
According to this lawsuit, “Defendant, New Life Center San Francisco, carelessly and negligently failed to observe or properly monitor and/or seek assistance for said decedent,” and knew the risks, including suicidal ideation that comes from too quick a withdrawal and how important it is for the medicine to be tapered gradually to avoid that.
The lawsuit was eventually settled in 2009, as were multiple lawsuits against the facility, its owner Social Betterment Development Company, and Richard E. Prescott, for breach of contract, fraud and deceptive trade practices. During the time of these cases, much effort was made to alert government agencies and the general public about this company. After his facilities were investigated and shut down, after multiple legal judgements were won against SBDC and himself personally, Richard Prescott fled the area and ceased to operate in the rehab industry. There is no doubt that the largest payout was for the Cody Bates case, but as his mother will tell you, it was never about the money. It was about the loss of her son and her hope that no one else should ever have to be treated as Cody was, nor made to suffer as he did while under the care of such a negligent organization.