Texoma Community Center was one day shy of the five-month anniversary for its nascent Substance Abuse Program on Thursday when it welcomed dozens of patients and visitors into its newly-renovated treatment facility in Sherman for an open house. But few seemed to care whether Thursday was a day of particular significance; for TCC staff and the now-clean clients they serve, every day sober is a day worth celebrating.
“They picked me up when I was at my very lowest,” said Kandace, a former addict who was one of three individuals who enrolled in the program on its first day of operation last December. Kandace and other patients asked to be referenced by their first names only for privacy reasons. “And here I am today, I’m stronger, I feel better about myself, I’m resting, and every day’s a new day.”
In just a short period of time, the Substance Abuse Program at TCC has grown from those first three patients to nearly 70. It’s a growth curve demonstrative of a dire need in the local community for recovery assistance, said Program Manager Kristi Gourd.
“It’s grown faster, exponentially faster than what I anticipated. I knew the need was huge, but as far as where the referrals were going to come from and how quickly the word was going to get out there, … it’s a reflection of an underserved population in the community.”
The clients coming into the program have been referred from a variety of sources, said Center staff, including local physicians, non-profits and, notably, Child Protective Services. The population that has surprised administrators, though, is those who have realized on their own that they need help and chose to seek it out.
“I’ve been surprised at how many self-referrals we’ve had so far; almost a quarter of our referrals have been self-referrals,” said Gourd. “I knew the need for that was here and prevalent. And for them to be able to come regardless of ability to pay or insurance or anything else, that’s been another huge barrier.”
That ability to help those who are not in a financial position to pay for the facility’s services comes from Texas’ 1115 Medicare Waiver, a five-year program that allows organizations like TCC to make innovative attempts at serving the heretofore underserved.
“We’re already well into Year Two, and there are milestones and metrics that have to be met each step of the way,” explained Mental Health Services Director Brent Phillips-Broadrick. “In order to get the next funding that we’ve been allotted, you have to show that you’ve met the milestones and metrics you said you would: service quality, satisfaction of people, how many people you’re serving; did you do with this money what you said you were going to do?”
Whether the waiver will be renewed upon its expiration, no one quite knows, said Phillips-Broadrick. It’s uncertainly that led TCC and other local health organizations to utilize the federal money on one-time projects, such as TCC’s work to open a permanent housing facility for the mentally impaired in Denison, as well as efforts that can pay for themselves in the long run. TCC administrators said they hope the Substance Abuse Program is one of the latter.
“We’re working very hard to make sure that these projects are all self-sustainable, meaning that if there is no second waiver, that we could still keep up,” explained Phillips-Broadrick. “Like for this program, what we will do is over the next two years, we’ll start to include more and more billing for people that have private insurance and billing people that have Medicaid and Medicare to offset the cost of providing treatment to people that have no funding at all.”
“We don’t want to turn anyone away,” added Gourd.
For patients like Kandace and Lawrence — another of the program’s early enrollees — TCC has provided a light at the end of the tunnel. Lawrence said it was a tunnel he had been trapped in for more than twenty years.
“I was actually 13 when I stated using, and I never went a whole lot of time without getting high; it’s just always been there,” he said during the open house event Thursday. “Hopefully, I’d still be in the right place if I hadn’t found this program, but in all reality, I’d probably still be on the run.
“Without the support, your mind starts running circles. You don’t know where to go or who to call. The mind’s powerful, you know. Having someone there to call and will talk to you, ‘Well why don’t you come hang out, do whatever,’ just talk to you about the problems and situations going through your head. To be honest with you, I’ve never been proven to be a winner yet, so I’m still working on it. I’m getting there.”
Kandace, too, credited the counselors at TCC with her ongoing recovery. She said the Substance Abuse Program has given her a chance to be a part of her granddaughter’s life — something she could only dream about during her years spent as an addict.
“Without this program, I’d have gone downhill, quickly,” she said. “Because when I first came, it was just despair. And now it’s just delight; I just delight in coming up here and seeing familiar faces and meeting new people that have the potential to be assisted through their issues as well.
“I’ve been truly successful in my recovery, and I know I wouldn’t have been able to do it without these people up here.”