GRAY, TN (WJHL)- Johnson City and Washington County are stepping up law enforcement patrols now that a controversial opioid addiction treatment center is open in Gray.
Overmountain Recovery opened this week in Gray Commons Professional Park. The clinic, which will dispense methadone to patients, has already started seeing patients according to the clinic’s senior executive, Lindy White. Mountain States Health Alliance operates the clinic with East Tennessee State University.
Hundreds of people in the Gray community fought against the clinic’s location, including long-time Gray homeowner Margie Hale.
“I know they need it but I just wish they’d put it somewhere else,” Hale said. She believes the clinic belongs closer to other medical facilities. Hale said while things have been quiet since the clinic opened that could change when patients start coming in. “I feel like we won’t see the effects of it for a while and then after they get hundreds of patients I don’t know what it’s going to be [like].”
White said MSHA worked with Johnson City police and the Washington County Sheriff’s office to step up patrols around the clinic in an effort to reassure the community of their safety. JCPD actually stepped up patrols last year in anticipation of the clinic opening but now they are doing direct patrols and traffic enforcement on the road in front of the clinic.
Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal said he will also have extra deputies patrolling the area. “We want the community to feel safe in their house,” Sheriff Graybeal said. “If you have something you want [use to check out], if you feel uncomfortable, [see] something at night, give us a call. We’ll come check it out for you.”
Sheriff Graybeal said he thinks traffic could be the biggest problem since the clinic is expecting to treat hundreds of patients. His deputies will be focused on keeping traffic moving and being visible in the community.
White said while clinic officials have already talked with law enforcement about potential traffic and solutions she does not think it will be a big problem. “In the afternoons we’ll be finishing up with our last patients in and around noonish so the afternoon traffic that was a concern of the community we’ve tried to address that through some scheduling,” White said.
Washington County Commissioner Bryan Davenport, who represents the Gray and Sulphur Spring areas, is also staying vigilant and working with law enforcement. “I owe it to [the people who elected me to office] to be proactive and vigilant, in keeping them safe and keeping this community a family community.”
Overmountain Recovery has two dedicated security offices on-staff during business hours and 24-hour surveillance. “We want our community to know we continue to want to be good partners with them on safety and security,” White said. “I would ask them to just reach out to me directly if they have any concerns.”
“I’m sure this location will be safe but we’re concerned about when people get out on the road, the traffic that’s involved and stuff like that,” Commissioner Davenport said. “That’s where we want everyone to know we realize that and we’ll do everything possible to make sure our community safety and community values don’t change in Gray.”
Johnson City Police Chief Mark Sirois and Sheriff Graybeal said their officers will monitor activity around the clinic indefinitely and will make adjustments as needed.
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