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Study finds Durham’s TROSA saves North Carolina $7.5 million annually

N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein visits TROSA earlier this year.
N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein visits TROSA earlier this year. Special to The Herald-Sun

The services provided by the Durham-based Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers (TROSA) have saved the state of North Carolina millions of dollars annually, a new study from RTI International has found.

The independent study found that the treatment center saves the state $7.5 million every year, mainly through the prevention of arrests, incarceration and emergency hospital visits.

For the study, RTI researchers looked at self-reported data from residents, including number of hospital visits and arrests before entering TROSA, as well as administrative data like probation-status and healthcare utilization. Cost data were analyzed across six domains: emergency room visits, outpatient doctor visits, arrests, probation/parole, incarceration, and homelessness.

TROSA, a multi-year residential program that provides treatment, vocational and educational training to people struggling with substance abuse, has about 500 participants who live on the nonprofit’s Durham campus. Founded in 1994, it has grown more than 50 percent since 2008.

Residents also help run several TROSA businesses – which include a thrift store, moving service and annual Christmas tree sales – while undergoing treatment for addiction and training for careers. The study, however, did not consider the benefits of future employment of TROSA residents.

Of those who graduate from TROSA’s two-year program, 95 percent maintain their sobriety and 85 percent found and retained employment one year after graduation, the organization said.

TROSA’s savings to the state are likely even larger if you factor in the vocational training and education programs it provides

Alexander Cowell, a senior research economist at RTI

“While the savings are significant, our analysis was conservative,” said Alexander Cowell, a senior research economist at RTI. “TROSA’s savings to the state are likely even larger if you factor in the vocational training and education programs it provides.”

The report comes as TROSA has seen its population affected by an increasing opioid addiction problem in North Carolina. N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein visited its Durham facilities earlier this year to talk about opioid addiction in the state.

In 2017, about 40 percent of the 500 people in TROSA’s rehabilitative programs are there because of an addiction to prescription opiates or heroin. That number was only 15 percent in 2010.

TROSA’s population has also grown increasingly younger. In the past two years, nearly all of the growth at TROSA has come from those under the age of 35, while the older population there has remained constant, according to TROSA Chief Operating Officer Keith Artin.

TROSA has received $3.2 million over the past two years from the state, which the organization plans to use to expand its operations. It is currently constructing a new building on its campus for treatment of residents. There has also been interest from other parts of the state to replicate the TROSA model.

“We are very proud of the work we do and the benefits it provides to our residents, their families and our state,” TROSA founder and CEO Kevin McDonald said in a statement. “It’s great to know that not only are we helping people overcome addiction and improve their lives, but we are also saving taxpayers millions of dollars every year.”

Zachery Eanes: 919-419-6684, @zeanes

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