History of TROSA

Founding TROSA

Established in 1994, TROSA is an award-winning national model for effective long-term recovery programs, TROSA provides the time, tools, and services to help men and women change their lives. Read below to learn how TROSA was created and why it is different from other recovery programs.

TROSA Founder Kevin McDonald

Throughout his youth, TROSA Founder Kevin McDonald was searching for a sense of belonging.

His father was in the U.S. Air Force, which meant his family moved a lot during Kevin’s childhood. Wherever they moved, Kevin felt severe anxiety in his constantly changing social situation. At a young age, he turned to alcohol to cope. His life at home came with its own set of challenges.

“My dad said ‘My way or the highway,’ and so I took the highway,” Kevin said.

Kevin started abusing drugs in addition to alcohol. “When I started using heroin, it was a whole different world,” he shares. “I had to adapt to it and survive…it was all about survival.”

Survival for Kevin meant committing crimes to support his addiction, which led to incarceration. Facing the possibility of years more in prison, a judge in California instead sentenced Kevin to probation and rehabilitation at a long-term residential therapeutic community called Delancey Street Foundation.

Kevin entered the rehabilitation program in 1979, at the age of 32. “The judge’s decision that day saved my life.”

In therapeutic communities, individuals participate in daily activities that encourage participants to be open and honest–both with themselves and each other. Naturally suspicious of everyone and lacking confidence in his own self-worth, Kevin was initially hostile and hesitant towards treatment and learning to trust others and the long-term process of recovery.

Eventually, Kevin began to feel safe and supported. He learned how to make changes in his life. He rose to leadership positions within the program and stayed as a resident in the facility for 12 years.

In 1987, he briefly moved to North Carolina, helping Delancey Street Foundation open a small therapeutic community serving about 30 men in the city of Greensboro. After he established that program he moved back to California and worked with a nonprofit homeless shelter, directing a program helping formerly incarcerated gang members.

Building a Dream

Kevin was thankful for the life-changing experience of recovery and believed in the core values of the therapeutic community model of treatment: asserting the importance of community; forming connections to others; empowering individuals to grow through personal responsibility and accountability to self and others. But Kevin wanted to start a program that went further and was more expansive and holistic in its approach and mission.

Back in North Carolina, a group of civic leaders wanted to create a community-centered residential treatment program to rehabilitate individuals with substance use disorders. Members of the civic group had met Kevin and were impressed by his drive to succeed.

After several meetings and phone calls, they persuaded Kevin to move permanently to North Carolina to create and lead a new program in Durham.

The new treatment program was named Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers, Inc. (TROSA).

With $18,000 in start-up funds, Kevin rolled up his sleeves and was ready for a challenge.

He moved quickly, working himself day and night to renovate a then-uninhabitable old school building to serve as TROSA’s campus. He recruited like-minded and hard-working allies in recovery to help create TROSA’s award-winning community social enterprises. Kevin was also constantly meeting with community members, city and county officials, neighbors, local law enforcement, and fellow service providers to establish connections and secure donations for the program.

An Award-Winning Program

Kevin created a unique program that diverged in several ways from the traditional model of treatment he knew. His goal was to prepare individuals for a full life of recovery beyond the residential campus setting.

TROSA is regarded as a modified therapeutic community because Kevin introduced many new program elements, evidence-based classes and therapies, professional staff, and support services.

Thanks to partnerships with the outstanding surrounding medical community, TROSA established on-site primary care and mental health services. Our trauma-informed staff provide therapies to address trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. And our clinical counseling team enhances our evidence-based peer-driven program.

Kevin’s approach also stressed the importance of post-program care, so that graduates can feel supported through the critical first year of living independently while in recovery. TROSA’s Graduate Services department advises and assists graduates and residents approaching graduation with special services including transitional housing and job transportation.

TROSA provides the time, tools, and services to help men and women change their lives.

As a result of Kevin’s work TROSA has received national, regional, and community awards highlighting the expertise of our staff; the effectiveness of our evidence-based clinical practices; and the civic engagement of our residents and staff.

Though never seeking awards and accolades, Kevin has received many throughout his nearly three decades of work at TROSA. These include AARP’s Purpose Prize; Ford Foundation’s Leadership for a Changing World; the Duke Energy Citizenship and Service Award; and North Carolina’s Old North State Award. Always generous with his time and knowledge, he has mentored and inspired many to achieve their own purpose.

Honoring a Legacy and Expanding Our Mission

In 2020, Kevin stepped away from overseeing the day-to-day executive operations at TROSA, but he remains very much involved in the life-changing experiences of our residents.

Kevin’s official title is now Founder and Director Emeritus and he continues to carry forth TROSA’s mission of empowering men and women with substance use disorders.

Kevin openly shares his experiences in addiction and recovery, serving as a powerful mentor and ally for our residents–especially for our “senior residents” who have participated in TROSA’s two-year program for 21 months and longer.

Many TROSA senior residents aspire to earn their own credentials in the recovery field–as Peer Support Specialists or Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselors–so that they, too, can help others rebuild lives, reconnect with families, and reclaim futures. Kevin is passing the torch to new generations of compassionate changemakers and recovery specialists.

Kevin’s executive successor is Keith Artin. After serving as TROSA’s COO for many years, Keith succeeded Kevin as TROSA’s President and CEO in 2020.

A graduate of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, Keith had experiences in entrepreneurial start-ups, investment banking, and public finance before being drawn to TROSA’s innovative approach to addressing the public health crisis of substance use disorders.

Keith started his first full year leading TROSA as its CEO during the COVID-19 pandemic. His vigilance, community-minded decision-making, and proactive approach ensured that our campus of 400+ residents and staff have remained safe and supported.

Keith is also leading TROSA through the building and opening of its first-ever satellite campus. The new campus– “TROSA Triad”–is located in Winston-Salem, NC and will be built in phases over several years with capacity to serve up to 200 individuals. He shares Kevin’s outlook of respecting tradition while looking towards the future.

Together, under Keith’s leadership and Kevin’s legacy, we are continually strengthening and enhancing the therapeutic experience of TROSA’s residents.