The Philanthropy Collaborative

Regional Case Studies

TROSA - Durham, North Carolina

In 1994, with only $18,000 in the bank, recovering addict Kevin McDonald started Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abuse (TROSA). TROSA has since grown into a $10 million operation serving more than 400 people at a time in its intensive, two-year residential substance abuse treatment program. "I didn't know I couldn't do it," said McDonald. "So I did."

TROSA takes on enrollees that are among the most difficult substance abusers to treat. Half of the residents have not finished high school, approximately 90 percent have criminal records, and the majority of them have long-term addiction problems spanning more than 15 years. The goal is to have every resident stay two years and learn three job skills.

In their first month at TROSA, residents get up at 6:30 am and aren't released until 11:00 pm, spending their day at work, in group therapy, and in seminars. After the first month, residents can send and receive mail. After three months, they can make phone calls. At six months, they get a portable CD player and a watch. After a year, their family can visit them, and two months after that, they can visit their families. Residents enroll in job placement classes after a year and a half, and start looking for a job shortly afterwards. Residents aren't paid for their work during their two-year stay - they are provided with a full scholarship that covers room and board, access to medical care, education, and clothing and other sundries. They leave with a car (or free transportation to work if they can't drive) and money in a savings account.

Since the program began in 1994, there have been approximately 1,100 graduates (a 30 percent graduation rate), and all but one of them left the program with a job. In addition, in 2009, the businesses produced over 50 percent of the income needed to fund TROSA's nearly $10 million budget, with the remainder made up from $3 million in donated products from the private sector, $1 million in private contributions, and $533,860 in government funding.

"By supporting programs [like TROSA] that provide jobs, job training, education and many other types of assistance," said Durham Mayor William Bell, "private and community foundations provide concrete resources that make an important and measureable difference for the City of Durham and its people."

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