Penny McElroy tells us it's a tragic public health issue in this region. "I have never seen anything as bad as what it is in East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia," said the Watauga Recovery Center spokesperson.
She's talking about prescription drug abuse. So at the Johnson City center, they're applying for a certificate of need through the state of Tennessee to allow them to treat addiction patients with methadone.
"Addiction in and of itself is a hot button topic these days," McElroy said. "We really don't seek to be controversial, but the reality is this problem of addiction in this society needs to be addressed. What we are attempting to do is help people who have the disease of addiction through medication management and recovery education, the twelve-step process."
But Watauga's application process faces serious hurdles, like zoning issues with their current location including an ordinance that methadone clinics can't be within 200 feet of a business that sells alcohol. Logan's Roadhouse is just across the street.
But despite an uphill battle, McElroy says Watauga Recovery Center will continue to move forward. "We struggled with the decision to do this because it puts a big target on Watauga Recovery Center," McElroy said. "But we believe in what we're doing and we don't feel that we're doing anything wrong. The idea that once you're an addict you're always an addict needs to go away. We can become productive members of society. Trying to help people is our number one goal. That's who it's about making human beings feel like they can get help and feel better."