Overmountain Recovery will be jointly operated by East Tennessee State University and Mountain States Health Alliance.
Clinic administrator Lindy White said staff will begin contacting patients Monday who have already expressed interest and schedule them for initial assessments, which typically take between two and three hours to complete.
“The first days of our operation will involve connecting with individuals who we currently have on our list who’ve expressed interest to take part in our program,” White said.
“We’re hopeful by the end of the week we will have scheduled appointments and patients coming into our building for that initial step.”
First announced in May 2016, the center will be the Tri-Cities’ first treatment center authorized to dispense methadone as part of its treatment regimen, which also includes in-depth counseling and social services.
In recent months, Mountain States and ETSU officials worked to renovate a former urgent care clinic in Gray, hire the necessary staff and establish the required structure to begin treating opioid-dependent patients.
The clinic was initially anticipated to open in August, but White said several factors contributed to the month-long delay.
“It was a couple of things. It was certainly working through those final components with the state licensure. Then we had to apply for the (Drug Enforcement Agency) license, and we really couldn’t apply for the DEA license until we had our state license,” White said.
“It’s just the steps we needed to walk through took a little bit longer. At that point, too, we had to connect to ensure the medication was delivered safely. That took a little bit of time. It’s been a combination of things. Our (information technology) vendor got a little bit delayed, as well, with the hurricane. All reasonable things.”
At first, the clinic will dispense methadone, but officials plan to begin prescribing buprenorphine during its second or third year.
Patients new to treatment will visit the clinic daily for dosing, while patients transferring from other clinics will complete an intake assessment before a personalized treatment plan is constructed.
White estimated approximately 15 new patients will be accepted weekly, although she said that figure could change.
Projections outlined in the clinic’s state application showed the clinic taking in 60 new patients per month during its first year, and in year two, the clinic will max out at between 1,100 and 1,200 patients. Each patient will pay about $16 per day for methadone treatment, which is $3 more than the amount estimated in the clinic’s certificate of need application.
On-site security will be tasked with traffic control during busy hours, while the clinic will be monitored 24/7 for security reasons.
To get to this stage, ETSU and Mountain States leaders had to get a certificate of need approved by the Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency, a rezoning request approved by Johnson City commissioners and get the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals to sign off on a special exception.
The clinic faced resistance from local Gray community residents and leaders, opposed to the idea of addicts driving through their neighborhood after taking methadone.
The opponents, organized as Citizens to Maintain Gray, gathered nearly 2,100 signatures from disconcerted citizens, but the clinic still received the necessary votes for approval.
Clinic officials have pledged to create a community advisory committee for Gray residents to make suggestions and pose concerns.
It’s possible those opposed could have some type of presence to protest during the clinic’s opening, Citizens to Maintain Gray organizer Danny Sells said last month.
“We have no intention of shutting down the road, blocking traffic or anything crazy like that,” Sells said. “The true statement is we will not go away with our opposition. Exactly how that manifests itself remains to be seen. The fact is if they think we're going away, they're dreaming.”
More information about Overmountain can be found at www.overmountainrecovery.org or by calling 833-371-0509 for more information.
Eds. Note: A previous version of this article stated patients would pay $13 per day for methadone treatment, which was estimated in the certificate of need application approved by the state. A spokesman said the actual cost for methadone treatment once the clinic opens will actually be $16 per day.