The Budget and Finance Committee met yesterday morning and Carter County Mayor Patty Woodby, staff from Families Free (a non-profit organization), and Criminal Court Judge Lisa N. Rice attended the meeting to discuss the Drug Rehabilitation Facility in Roan Mountain.
The facility, which was known to be the Northeast Correctional Complex Annex, closed back in 2021 due to budget constraints. Mayor Woodby explained the plan was to transition it into a Regional Recovery Center for non-violent /drug related male offenders seeking help in regard to drug use, rather than serving time in jail. A 5-year lease agreement was signed and has already been approved the governor. The process is intended to begin in March with 45 beds to start.
Funds from the Opioid Settlement were given to 9 counties including Greene. 8 counties and 3 municipalities have already contributed funds into the new program and Greene County is being asked to participate and contribute $600,000 over the next 3 years to help operate it. Mayor Woodby said with the funds contributed, more than $10 M are in the savings account to operate the facility over the upcoming years. Families Free will be overseeing the operations at the facility and there would be about 85 beds available.
Several questions remain unanswered like what will happen if the facility runs out of funds? What will happen if there is an overload in applications, how will applicants be chosen? How many people from each county will have access to a bed? How will drugs be prevented from getting into the facility? Lisa Tipton from Families Free said this has never been done before, but the knowledge and training from all involved makes her confident in the plan. The process would include a sentencing in court, a referral from the judge, a background check, assessment, a visit to the facility with a medical screening, and then Phase 1 would begin.
Commissioners present were not sure if Greene County should participate in the program, as there is not enough information at the moment. A board meeting will be held in Carter County next month for a more solid plan and the commission hopes to have more clarity and information by then, before making a final decision on their participation.