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Confusion, concerns in Hamblen County over possible substance abuse group home

WHITESBURG, Tenn. (WATE) - A long-term substance abuse group home that could be coming to the Whitesburg community is causing confusion and concerns.

Hamblen County commissioners met on Friday, and while this group home was not on the agenda, homeowners from across the county came to share their thoughts and their hope to stop this possible development.

"The children of Whitesburg don't deserve it. The community doesn't deserve it," said Lance Buchanan.

Commissioners learned at Hamblen County's jail meeting last week about the possibility of True Purpose Ministries developing a long-term group home off E. Andrew Johnson Highway.

"We're all very avid to get some answers to this," said Buchanan.

The issue for Buchanan and many others in the community comes down to children.

 "My main concern with this is that it's seven tenths of a mile from the elementary school.

Hamblen County commissioners say there are too many "if's" right now and it's not clear if plans will be approved now or at all.

"If they started today it's two to three years before anything would even begin to happen," said Louis Jarvis, Chairman of Hamblen County Commission.

Commissioners say if everything does go forward in the planning commission, the property would have to be rezoned because currently it is agricultural.

If plans are turned down, the developers would have to present plans to the full commission.

"The restrictions on depending on what it's called are fairly stringent to keep it away from schools and neighborhoods," added Jarvis.

If True Purpose Ministries did begin building, two homes would be on the property which could house 16 patients each.

Paul Hyde with the Hamblen County Substance Abuse Coalition says there are rumors. 

"A lot of folks think that True Purpose is going to be a jail or a mental health institute or an extended part of the Hamblen County Jail and it's not," said Hyde.

Hyde says patients cannot have a violent criminal past. They cannot have any kind of sexual charges and they cannot be a mental health patient taking medications.

"Everybody knows and admits that yes we need this type of program, just not in our backdoor and that's the fight we're going to get no matter where an organization like this goes in," he said.

The executive sirector of True Purpose Ministries says as of now, nothing has been signed, nothing has been finalized, and they're still looking at other properties throughout the county that may fit their needs.

A community meeting is being scheduled over the coming weeks in Whitesburg where county leaders, the Hamblen County Substance Abuse Coalition, and True Purpose Ministries will all be there to answer any questions. No date has yet ben set.


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