ETSU, Mountain States leaders address concerns about proposed drug treatment clinic

If everything is approved, the application lists the opening date as February 2017, with work on the building beginning in November.

GRAY, TN (WJHL) – Friday, the presidents of East Tennessee State University and Mountain State’s Health Alliance responded to hundreds of concerned citizens. Last night, more than 300 people in Gray met to voice concerns about a proposed drug treatment clinic.

Last week, ETSU and Mountain States announced plans to build the clinic at the Gray Commons Professional Park.

People who live around the area say one of their biggest concerns is a clinic like this being so close to schools, and thousands of students.

“You have 2,700 students within a mile and a half of the location because you’ve got Gray Elementary School, Ridgeview Elementary School, Daniel Boone High School, you have two-day cares, six churches, hundreds and hundreds of homes,” State Representative Matthew Hill said.

With concern building,  ETSU’s President Dr. Brian Noland said they could have done a better job communicating the clinic’s intent.

“This is not a methadone distribution facility, this is a treatment facility, this is an addiction facility, we’ve done a poor job conveying that in our communication, but what we’re proposing has been very, very different than what has been conveyed or digested by the citizens of Gray,” Noland said.

Noland said this will be a drug treatment center with counseling, patient care, research, and prevention.

“This isn’t like a drug dispensing thing, this is a treatment facility,” Mountain States CEO Alan Levine said. “They don’t leave with drugs they are treated there.”

It will be a not-for-profit clinic.”All of the revenue that we generate will stay here in the community and be reinvested either with ETSU in terms of research, doing outreach education, or expanding our treatment options,” Levine said.

Even after meeting with Noland and Levine Friday, representatives Micah Van Huss and Matthew Hill say they still have lingering concerns.

“I’m 100 percent supportive of the concept, I’m very much not in favor of the location,” Hill said.

“To find a different location is my direction right now,” Van Huss said.

But Levine said changing the location would not be easy. A private methadone clinic is trying to come into a location on Princeton Road in Johnson City.  Levine said the two applications are competing for approval.

“If we we’re to propose changing the location, then what happens is we would have to withdraw our application, then they would go forward and likely get approved,” Levine said.

He said that would mean less of a chance the ETSU/ Mountain States clinic gets approval down the road.

Everyone we talked with said they want to continue conversations with the community in Gray and work through their concerns.

Noland said he is open to public meetings about the clinic but will let the elected representatives organize those meeting.

The state is set to either approve or deny ETSU and Mountain States request to move forward with this clinic in August.

Copyright 2016 WJHL. All Rights Reserved.

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