An initiative that would place a new substance-abuse facility in Forsyth County has qualified for a $1.5 million federal grant toward its establishment.

However, it remains unclear where the project by Triangle Residential Options for Substance Abusers Inc. (TROSA) would be located, including potentially to the west of Forsyth. TROSA operates its primary facility in Durham.

TROSA announced plans in 2018 to open a transitional housing facility in Winston-Salem for 250 people receiving therapy and counseling for drug or alcohol abuse. The new campus is expected to have 18 staff employees.

The grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) was announced Tuesday. The grant would focus primarily on a “recovery to work” strategy that emphasizes job and life skills training for participants with substance use disorders.

Though TROSA officials have not announced a project cost, they said Tuesday it would exceed $7.5 million. The 2018-19 state budget included a $6 million grant toward a Triad facility that remains available.

TROSA’s first preferred site, a 16.69-acre site along Old Greensboro Road at its intersection with U.S. 158/Reidsville Road, was removed as an option in May when the Winston-Salem City Council rejected a rezoning request by a 7-1 vote.

Brian Buland, the group’s associate director of special projects, said Tuesday that securing the ARC grant “is a very supportive investment” toward establishing the second facility.

“We’re still looking at the Triad as a whole,” Buland said. The goal is opening the facility by June 30.

TROSA leaders have spoken with officials in Forsyth and Guilford counties as they search for a property in the neighborhood of 10 acres that, ideally, would include one or more buildings suitable for renovation, such as an old school, church or small industrial/office complex.

However, because Guilford is not part of the ARC region, a site there would not be eligible for the federal grant.

Buland said TROSA’s preference is a Forsyth location.

“We have several properties in the due diligence process,” he said.

Forsyth County Manager Dudley Watts said Tuesday that the county is working with TROSA on potential sites.

Buland cautioned that the overall project cost is site specific, meaning that TROSA could opt to place the facility in a county west of Forsyth in the ARC region.

“The Triad makes a lot of sense for expansion because we already serve a number of individuals from the Triad at our Durham facility,” Buland said.

The Forsyth Board of Commissioners approved in September 2018 revising the Unified Development Ordinances, or UDO, to add the designation “Group Care Facility C (therapeutic community)” to accommodate the proposed TROSA facility.

A change was required because the two existing classifications, Group Care Facility A and Group Care Facility B, have a limit of up to 40 residents. The new use would be permitted only in the General Business district with special-use district zoning.

In May 2019, the City Council voted 7-1 against the zoning request of The Commons of Forsyth County Inc. Council members expressed concerns about the proposed location site, citing residential feedback.

The Commons is a collaborative effort between the N.C. Housing Foundation, Goodwill Industries, Winston-Salem State University, State Employees’ Credit Union and several other service organizations. The Commons provides homeless and rehabilitation services through a variety of programs, facilities and training opportunities.

“We’re very much embedded in the Durham community that we serve, and we felt we had pretty positive overall feedback for the first location,” Buland said.

“We understand that the council may have had other uses in mind for that property.

“If the original process had worked out, we would have been operational by now.”

The Forsyth campus would provide “several social enterprises, which will provide hands-on job skills training for residents while generating revenue to keep services cost-free.”

After completing the program, 100% of graduates would leave with full-time employment. At least 90% of graduates from the two-year program are expected to remain sober and employed for at least one year.

Buland said that vocational training is one of the hallmarks of its residential program, including opportunities in its kitchen, thrift store and automotive department.

He said TROSA has a strong relationship with Durham Technical Community College to offer more advanced types of vocational training.

“We look forward to having similar relationships right here in Winston-Salem as well,” Buland said.

“The residence size of 250 is important to note, because as a therapeutic community, it’s very much a peer-based model that relies on the health of the community and the size of the community.”

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