JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) — An inpatient recovery center planned for the former Carter County Work Camp stands to get a bit less than $2 million of Washington County Tennessee’s $4.2 million in Baby Doe opioid settlement money.
The county’s budget committee approved a slate of recipients at its meeting Wednesday. If passed by the full commission this month, the Northeast Tennessee Regional Recovery Center will get $1.9 million.
Criminal Court judges Stacy Street and Lisa Nidiffer Rice had encouraged local governments across a nine-county region to pledge about $21 million of the settlement money from the lawsuit to the abstinence-based program.
The judges got about half that total, Street said after Wednesday’s decision, but that will be enough to run the program in combination with a $1.3 million recurring state grant and a $1 million state startup grant.
“The Baby Doe Fund money was always sort of our safety net,” Street said. “Right now, Ms. Rice’s total, depending on Kingsport, we’ve got about $10 million (pledged through local government resolutions).”
In a 2-1 vote with budget commissioner Larry Cate opposed, the budget committee recommended that ETSU’s social work department and the Johnson City Recovery Community receive $1.2 million. $500,000 was allocated for the Bristol Lifestyle Recovery Program, $250,000 for the Recovery Drug Court, $240,000 for the Salvation Army and $100,000 for the Recovery Resources Living Program.
Street said the Carter County-based residential program, which now has an official board and non-profit status, is leasing the former Northeast Correctional Center annex for $1 a year for the next five years.
“That $1.3 million reoccurring (state) funding, we’re going to operate the program on that,” Street said. “This Baby Doe money will supplement that as this subcommittee of the First Tennessee Development District sees fit to give us each year, so we can make it bigger, smaller, depending on what they tell us.”
Street said the standalone residential recovery court will complement existing recovery courts overseen by criminal court judges in three judicial districts. Participants in those drug courts don’t live in a congregate setting but on their own.
Street and Rice both said the program will fill a critical gap once it launches. The state grant contract is set to be signed in October, and the effort may start soon after at the 185-bed former prison.
“We’ll start out at about 45 or 50 just to make certain we’ve got everything the way we need it, and then we’ll expand it from there,” Street said.
He said the program will serve citizens whose addictions place a huge drain on local resources, from child protective services and health care to the cost to victims of crime.
“But there’s all kinds of programs that we can’t service in recovery court that also need that funding,” he said. “The misdemeanor recovery courts — there’s a lot of good programs out there.”
Street said a residential facility with ties to the court system has been a missing piece.
“We’d like to have every single dime but we’re very thankful for what we’ve gotten, and the cooperation between these counties and cities, and the state and the judges and the various committees … shows just how bad that problem is.
“Ten years ago people would have laughed us out of the room. Now, everyone knows somebody that’s affected and they understand that we need to do something. That was the grand vision of Judge Rice and that’s what we’ve been able to come up with.”