State and local leaders host ribbon cutting for new recovery center

Published 12:24 pm Thursday, July 13, 2023

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By Larry N. Souders
Star Correspondent
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, Carter County Mayor Patty Woodby, along with nine other state and local leaders cut the ribbon on the new Northeast Tennessee Regional Recovery Center Wednesday morning.

The facility is housed in the old Roan Mountain Work Camp near Roan Mountain and will house up to 85 men at a time.

State Representative Tim Hicks R-Gray, after a tour of the remodeled building, opened the inside ceremony by thanking the governor, saying, “Back when Governor Lee was running for office, we had attended many events, you said ‘ Government is not the answer to some of our greatest problems, government’s job is to protect Life, Liberty and Freedom. We the people are the ones to address our greatest problems. I truly believe that this facility is a perfect example of government helping, but stepping back out of the way and allowing we the people to really attend to this problem that we have here in northeast Tennessee.” He went on to thank the governor, before introducing him, for meeting with him and others to address the problem about 18 months ago.

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Governor Bill Lee recognized the work of Rep. Hicks, 1st Judicial District Criminal Court Judges Lisa Rice and Stacy Street, District Attorney Staubus collaborated with leaders of the nine counties of the 1st District that lead to today’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Governor Lee said, “This is a thank you to this community, that this is an example of how government is not always the answer, this is where it happens.” on the drive up from the Elizabethton Airport, he noted, “I love this place, I’d never been here before I ran being from a whole different part of the state, there is something very unique about this community and the people in it. Today is a manifestation of that uniqueness; you’ve got mayors and judges and DAs, community leaders, non-profit leaders and religious leaders, and business leaders. You people who care deeply about the people in this community.”

He went on, “When government isn’t the answer and the people are, then the people must step up, and like I’ve said, government isn’t the answer to the greatest problems and challenges we’ve had. What we’re talking about (drug addiction) that going to be dealt with in this community is a great problem and a great challenge. Overdose deaths have more than doubled in the last year in communities like this. As long as we have chaos at the border of this country, it is not going to stop.

You know we’re not just going to whine about this problem. The people of this community have said we’re going to lean into this problem and we’re stepping into these problems we face and going to face them. While I thank the General Assemble for funding facilities like this, y’all are the ones making this happen. This could be a model for other communities all across the state. Where nine counties come together to say we can address this crisis. What going to happen here is going to change people’s lives, what’s going to happen here is going to change entire families. This was a prison, now it’s going to be a place that sets people free, and that is redemption.”

Carter County Mayor Patty Woodby spoke next and said, “As mayor of this wonderful county, I first want to thank the governor, I know he’s been tremendously supporting Carter County in several different other arenas and the other nine northeast Tennessee counties that are bringing this up. First of all, I thank the Lord, I pray for my county and community every night. I pray for my leadership and my commissioners who are with me here today. I want to thank the delegation that has supported this facility and the friendships and partnerships that have come along the nine mayors, judges and the past commissioners that have supported this program. We just could not have done this without them. Carter County donated $1.8 million dollars, which was all of our settlement monies along with all the other counties.”

She continued, “I really appreciate everyone for being here; I ask that you pray for the success of this facility, we’re going to save lives, save families and save our communities. We have an epidemic in our rural counties. This is the best thing; I’ve watched at least two individuals graduate from this program on a smaller level. I watched them graduate in a courtroom with people standing room only around the walls; those two impacted many in this community. We want them to be back in our community so they can be viable for their children, and for our community.”

Northeast Tennessee Regional Recovery Center is officially scheduled to be opened around October 1st; the addiction non-profit Families Free will administer the recovery care. Executive Director Lisa Tipton, who has worked with recovering addicts in not only Carter County but also Washington and Sullivan, said she saw a problem based on her work and something more substantial was needed for the entire First District of northeast Tennessee.

This facility was funded by 11 counties and cities that contributed some or all of their funds from “Baby Doe” $35 million Endo Pharmaceuticals opioid settlement that’s been used to help start the center, and the NETRRC will be connected to local drug courts.

This included the counties Carter, Johnson, Unicoi, Washington, Sullivan, Hawkins, and Hamblen, as well as the cities of Kingsport, Elizabethton, Erwin, and Unicoi. Greene County, while not contributing funds, will also be sending residents to the facility.

Ongoing funding for the facility will come from state grants for the first five years and then renewed grants on a yearly basis thereafter.