By DARRECK KIRBY | CoServ
A common and dismissive statement in our society is that people never change, but nothing could be further from the truth. Given proper guidance and support, anyone is capable of change. Shannon White is living proof of that.
After achieving sobriety in 2007, Shannon made the decision to leave her teaching career to become a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC). After a few years working at other treatment centers, she made the decision to found her own nonprofit outpatient treatment center in McKinney, Grace To Change.
Opening originally in 2011, Grace To Change sought to make a difference in its community—regardless of one’s income level. Incidentally, this eventually led the center to a necessary shift toward nonprofit status in 2017.
“We were very unsuccessful as a for-profit,” Shannon said. “I would just give [our services] away to people, and since my passion was for helping that indigent population, we made the decision to go and become a nonprofit.”
The term ‘indigent’ refers to an extreme degree of poverty. Shannon says about 90 percent of Grace To Change’s clients are facing either legal issues or are involved with Child Protective Services (CPS), making for some very high stakes if they aren’t able to overcome their addiction issues.
Because of her past, Shannon understood how crucial access to quality treatment and support are to the recovery process. As such, she refused to exclude anyone who may be in need-based simply on their income level.
“There was kind of this split there,” Shannon said of her previous experience working in a treatment center. “They said, ‘Hey, we're going to split it up into two parts between the rich people and the poor people, and I want you to teach the rich people.’ So, I said, ‘No thanks,’ and called my parents to say that I wanted to start my own treatment center to work with the people who couldn't afford treatment.”
Shannon heard about the CoServ Charitable Foundation and thought the assistance could help her program. So, she applied for a grant that would fund 10 additional ‘scholarships,’ valued at $2,000 each, to help people start to rebuild their lives. The CoServ Charitable Foundation distributed the grant last year.
Grace To Change not only helps individuals who are struggling with addiction but the greater community as well. The effects of one person’s substance abuse are felt by entire families and can be expensive to the community. With the guidance of a program like Grace To Change, individuals are less likely to have repeat offenses or relapses.
Grace To Change has seen about 1,000 people come through its doors, graduating approximately 950 of those clients –an impressive feat to be sure.
Where Shannon White and her team of counselors, each a graduate of the program themselves, really shine is in their aftercare. For those who complete the 12-week program of group and individual sessions, Grace To Change offers a lifetime of support.
“One of the things we do that's been a priority of mine is providing free aftercare for life,” Shannon said. “Maybe it’s been six months and, all of a sudden, you're like, ‘Hey, I need to touch base,’ you can come and jump back in.”
Treatment centers don’t typically offer lifetime support to former clients, let alone free of charge. For Shannon, it’s all about making the biggest change possible.
“We had a guy that stayed in contact and came to group for eight years, at least once a week,” Shannon said. “That was just his thing. We want to make sure we're meeting [everyone’s] needs for a lifetime.”