GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL)- Local leaders and advocates are hoping to reinvent a former home for hundreds with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
After 50 years of operations, the Greene Valley Developmental Center in Greeneville closed its doors in the Summer of 2017.
Since then, there’s been a number of pitches for the property but minimal progress.
Rep. David Hawk (R-Greeneville) said the site is tens of thousands of square feet but only about 20 percent of it is currently being utilized.
“It has been very frustrating the fact that this is going to be the third winter where the lights are off and the water is off in many of these buildings,” he said.
Hawk said a change of hands in the governor’s office slowed progress but he’s expecting to see some movement in 2020.
“I have had positive conversations with Gov. Lee,” Hawk said. “It’s too good of an opportunity, too good of a piece of property to just let it sit there for years. We need to do something with it.”
Jack Stewart, a Greeneville advocate with the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, is asking leaders to act with urgency to transform it into a long-term inpatient treatment facility.
Stewart said a site like this could help people like his 55-year-old son, who recently died by suicide. “He was watching Ohio State play football on Saturday night and then 12 hours later he shot himself,” he said.
Stewart said a treatment program should also provide skills training to help people struggling become more productive.
“We need to find new solutions and think out of the box and the opportunity at Greene Valley gives us a chance because it’s in our backyard,” he said.
Hawk said local judges he has spoken to support a mental health and substance abuse treatment facility as an alternative to prison.
He said he’s also heard some community pushback.
“The community has asked that we look first at serving our veterans in some way shape or form,” Hawk said.
He said the site could provide medical and mental health services for veterans, in addition to housing.
This is an idea U.S. Congressman Phil Roe (R-TN), ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, has long supported.
No matter what project is pursued, Roe said it will likely require local, state and federal dollars, as well as private investment.
“It will take all hands on deck to get this done,” he said. “It would be a huge win in our region if we could pull that off.”
Hawk said there’s also more than 300 acres of land in that area that could be used for industrial development.