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Each One, Teach One: Taking Substance Abuse Each Resident at a Time

By Kelly Church

Durham, NC is the home to a one-of-a-kind nonprofit. TROSA is a comprehensive recovery program for men and women with a history of substance abuse. TROSA, which stands for Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers, has been providing refuge and rehabilitation for substance abusers fore more than two decades. As a unique multi-tiered program, Associate Director of Development for TROSA Erika Wilhite says that more than 500 people benefit from the program daily.

"TROSA's comprehensive services (housing, food, clothing and personal care items), are available at no cost to the person receiving treatment," Wilhite says. "By offering all services free of charge, TROSA eliminates economic barriers to treatment."

As a treatment center, TROSA is designed to be a multi-year program in the setting of a residential community. Those involved in the program, as staff or as residents, are dubbed "agents of change," as everyone at TROSA is considered to have an active role in the community's success. Wilhite says that all agents of change influence a person's attitude, perception and behaviors that are associated with drug use. Together, agents of change are part of a person's lifelong success and recovery.

"Our motto, 'Each one, teach one,' reflects the importance of peer support in our program and the community's vital role in achieving and maintaining recovery," Wilhite says.

Another part of TROSA's program is vocational training, whether it be gardening, finance, accounting, auto care, sales, administration, construction or catering, there's something to suit every resident. TROSA's founder, President and CEO Kevin McDonald believes that work is therapeutic and therefore essential to a person's recovery.

"[Work is] constantly teaching people and giving them the opportunity to be somebody that they've never been in their life, that they have to earn everything," McDonald says.

Education is also viewed as a key part of treatment at TROSA. Wilhite cites recovery as a "lifelong process" and learning to acquire and maintain employment is a huge factor in a person's stability after rehabilitation. For residents at TROSA who have not received their high school diploma or GED, after six months in the community they are required to take an adult literacy or GED class to help prepare them for life outside of TROSA. They also offer computer classes, relapse prevention, interview practice and job skills lessons throughout the program.

Although TROSA is a multi-year program, residents are supported throughout the rest of their lives with TROSA, according to Wilhite. Since 1994, thousands of residents have come through the community, recovered and gone on to live healthy lives outside of TROSA.

"TROSA encourages graduates to stay involved in our community," Wilhite says. "Our Continuing Care services help program graduates stay sober, employed and crime-free as they transition into the [outside] community."

With so many success stories in their record books, the key to TROSA's success lies in one simple rule: everyone admitted to the program must want to recover. Wilhite says they accept everyone who is willing to commit to this condition, initiating the recovery process and setting each resident up for success. In fact, some residents have gone on to graduate and return to the TROSA community for a second time as staff members there to help others through their recovery process.

"TROSA graduates' sobriety, vocational training experience, work ethic and leadership skills enable them to overcome considerable barriers to achieve their goals and successfully reintegrate into their families and communities," Wilhite says.

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