By MARINA WATERS
Gray resident Danny Sells sat in front of the public safety committee meeting on Thursday, April 6, to discuss his concerns about the drug addiction treatment center that is slated to open on Gray Commons Circle.
East Tennessee State University and Mountain States Health Alliance have partnered to create a treatment facility that will serve patients who are addicted to opioid-based drugs. A report from MSHA’s corporate communications manager, Meaghan Smith, said the facility will also incorporate counseling, education, outreach, prevention and research.
The Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency unanimously approved the Certificate of Need for the clinic on Aug. 24. But certain members of the Gray area are also concerned about their community.
“We have not had any concern about the fact there is a need for a treatment,” Sells said. “And there is an issue out there that we have to deal with, but we strongly feel that this is, as the experts tell us, a medical issue that needs to be addressed as a medical issue and we feel it certainly should be addressed in a medical environment. And that certainly is not in the community of Gray Station. But we’re going to have to deal with it.”
The clinic’s zoning was finalized by the Johnson City Commission on Oct. 6, 2016. During last week’s public safety committee meeting, Sells mentioned his concern about the proximity of the clinic to the nearest hospital or Johnson City Police station (which is 13 minutes to the nearest hospital and 14 minutes to the closest police station). Sells said this is part of the reason he is hoping Washington County could provide added security to the area near the clinic that is slated to open in late July or early August 2017.
“The thing that concerns us is what jeopardy does this facility put on the citizens of Gray, those of us who live there, those of us like myself who can see this facility from their front yard?” Sells said. “What we’re looking for is the county to work along with us and provide some assistance, to help us make sure this thing gets off on the right foot.”
Though the clinic will have a Johnson City address, Gray Station and Delmer Salts Road, two roads in the Washington County district, are two minutes from the site.
Commissioner Pat Wolfe also mentioned the clinic might have a security officer on site. Sells, however, expressed concern for areas farther down Suncrest Drive.
“I’ve talked to law enforcement from all over the state,” Sells said. “‘They have told me, ‘Danny you will have problems. You might not have problems immediately on the site, but you’re going to have problems at the Road Runner. You’re going to have problems down at the Dairy Queen, down at the Walgreens—that these people will hang out and create problems.”
As the clinic gears up to open its doors to patients in the coming months, Smith also said MSHA will be gathering feedback and suggestions from the surrounding community through the creation of an advisory committee that will include members from schools, law enforcement, businesses, churches and other stakeholders in the community.
Commissioner Mike Ford said he felt many others in the area will also be affected by the new facility.
“Everybody that lives from the Greene County line all the way to the Sullivan County line to the Carter County line is going to be affected by this one way or the other,” Ford said. “And that same danger is from there all the way through Gray to the interstate and outside. So we’re all going to be affected one way or the other.”
The public safety committee suggested Sells meets with Washington County law enforcement officials.