State officials are coming out against a group of homes that cater to individuals recovering from addiction. Officials representing the homes say this is part of effort to remove them from residential areas.
Maryland-based Oxford House operates 19 group homes in Mississippi. They function as places where recovering alcoholics and drug addicts can transition back into society after treatment.
Controversy over Oxford House sprang up earlier this year when a new home was opened near a prominent, private school in Jackson. Nearby residents complained that they could invite undesirable elements into the neighborhood.
Governor Phil Bryant weighed in on the subject when he criticized the state Department of Mental Health for providing funding to Oxford House to open new homes in residential areas.
"Many of the people or a portion of the people who are in the homes have been convicted of crimes and recently released from prison," says Bryant. "We've heard from a lot of people who live in that area, and I don't blame them. I would be concerned too if my children were there."
The Oxford House's website states that nearly 80 percent of their residents have served jail time, but they argue that providing support for individuals who suffer from addiction reduces the recidivism rate.
Oxford House Attorney Steve Polin says this is simply a case of no one wanting a group home next to them.
"It's sort of what is called 'not in my backyard syndrome," Polin says. "People in Northeast Jackson who do not like Oxford House have no other means available to attack Oxford House. The politicians have gotten involved and politicians are doing what politicians do. They're operating on less than complete facts and trying to create controversy."
Polin says Oxford House plans to continue operating their group homes in Mississippi with plans to open more in the future.