ETSU, Mountain States: Gray Commons location ‘more suitable’ for methadone clinic

WASHINGTON COUNTY, TN (WJHL) – East Tennessee State University and Mountain States Health Alliance officials released a statement Friday afternoon that said they intend to move forward with the Gray Commons site for the methadone clinic, rather than the West Oakland Avenue site in Johnson City proposed by Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge.

On Friday morning, Eldridge asked Mountain States Health Alliance and East Tennessee State University to consider one alternative to the Gray site for its proposed methadone clinic.

Eldridge’s proposed site is located at 1021 West Oakland Avenue in Johnson City.

He said it had been a long process and they have looked at 40 sites, but arrived at the Oakland Avenue site by process of elimination.

He said the West Oakland Avenue site was not perfect, with a lot of zoning and parking limitations, but said they wanted MSHA and ETSU to consider the site.

Eldridge said he recognized the need for the methadone clinic in our area to fight the drug epidemic, but did not want the clinic to be compromised by the community.

Just after 4:30 p.m. Friday, ETSU and MSHA officials released the following statement:

Our region suffers from a prescription drug epidemic that is destroying lives and needlessly causing the deaths of too many people.  This tragedy is befalling too many families.

As mission-driven organizations, Mountain States Health Alliance and East Tennessee State University care first and foremost about improving the lives of the people in our region.  So, when we were asked by local officials to step forward and lead efforts to bring new treatment options to the region, we did so with a sense of urgency and community that cannot be replicated by any organization that doesn’t call this region home.  The people impacted by addiction are our families, our friends, our neighbors and people we cherish.  So we are determined, in partnership with our elected officials, education leaders, law enforcement and our colleagues, to take whatever steps are necessary to bring relief to these members of our community.

From the first day we announced the effort to bring this treatment center to our region, we said we would be willing to entertain alternatives that met the zoning requirements, provided easy access to the facility, were financially responsible and had the least impact on the community.  Over the past month, an earnest attempt was made by leadership from Mountain States Health Alliance, Mayor Eldridge, and others, to identify an alternative location for the proposed treatment facility at Gray Commons.

We believe all the people involved will agree a genuine effort was made to identify an alternative location, with nearly 40 sites considered.

After significant discussion and consideration, however, we were ultimately not able to identify a site more suitable than the Gray Commons location, a decision we believe is supported by independent planning experts who have evaluated multiple locations.  We appreciate the suggestion by Mayor Eldridge that the property on West Oakland Avenue be considered, and that location was, indeed, given serious consideration.  However, the data show this area is more heavily congested with traffic, would cost far more, and is not more suitable.

We appreciate the input we have received from the citizens of Gray – people who we respect as our neighbors and friends. We are determined, if approved, to use this property in a manner that will be beneficial to the community.   The evidence shows, and law enforcement leaders and experts have confirmed, that treatment clinics of this type do not result in the negative impacts about which individuals have expressed concern.   We understand these concerns are genuine, and we are determined to ensure this treatment center is a source of pride for the community, as we take steps to help our neighbors and families.  We believe this will help improve lives, improve our economy, enhance our prospects for growing our region, and ultimately be something the entire community can support.

The process ahead provides additional opportunity for our neighbors to express their concerns, and ultimately, this decision lies in the hands of our elected and appointed local and state officials.  We will provide the facts, and let the process work.”

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