“This is a money-making thing, just for ya’ll!” shouts a Gray resident at a board meeting in Nashville in an Aug. 23 video on wjhl.com.
The meeting had already adjourned, and state officials had unanimously approved ETSU and Mountain States Health Alliance’s application to open a methadone clinic.
Far from being just “a money-making thing,” the clinic proposal, an outline of which you can find on johnsoncitypress.com, details a comprehensive answer to the opioid addiction epidemic in the area.
According to the Tennessee Hospital Association at tnpatientsafety.com, there were 15,255 opioid-related emergency department visits at east Tennessee hospitals from 2014 through the third quarter of 2015. This is more than either of the other Grand Divisions of Tennessee.
The clinic will be a wing of ETSU’s Center for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment. While traditional methadone clinics are places where methadone is dispensed to patients as an alternative to opioids, the model for this clinic is more comprehensive, taking a whole-person approach to recovery.
The site will also give students new learning opportunities and allow the university to perform research aimed at maximizing the effectiveness of treatments.
The application for the clinic was officially submitted by ETSU and MSHA’s joint nonprofit corporation East Tennessee Healthcare Holdings Inc. MSHA is investing $1.7 million in the project, which it will be reimbursed only later as revenue from patients won’t take the clinic out of the red until its second year of operation.
Also, on the individual level, the cost per person to receive treatment at the clinic will be less expensive than clinics in Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville, among others.
But the clinic has faced opposition for non-monetary reasons as well.
Signs around the proposed site for the clinic, Gray Commons Professional Park, read in bright red NO METHADONE CLINIC IN GRAY.
While the site is still awaiting approval from a rezoning committee before renovations can begin, those in charge of the project say that it is the best location they have seen. Meanwhile, Gray residents are voicing concerns over property values and the safety of schools that are close to the site.
However, the nearest school, a private Christian school, is more than a mile away from the site and is not located on the same road. And the possibility of lower property values seems like a weak argument against a much-needed medical facility.
The clinic ETSU and MSHA hope to open in Gray is a multi-faceted response to one of the biggest issues of this area. The arguments raised against the clinic are roadblocks not only its success but also to the betterment of the region.