Educare groups meet at a small office on Natchez Street in Franklin. // Photo Matt Blois
By MATT BLOIS
After 20 years as a for-profit business, a counseling and substance abuse treatment program in Franklin switched to a nonprofit business model last year.
From its small office on Natchez Street in Franklin, Educare provides individual and group counseling for people with mental illnesses or substance abuse disorders.
Educare focuses on people who are going through the criminal justice system. Clinical Coordinator Tony Owens said the organization’s main goal is to provide treatment as an alternative to incarceration.
Many of Educare’s clients are going through rehabilitation programs in the 21st District Recovery Court as part of sentencing for a drug conviction.
A bumper sticker on a car in the parking lot read, “Got Naloxone?” a medicine used to reverse opioid overdoses. Another sticker read, “DUI recovery court saves lives.”
The company also offers safety programs for drunk drivers, counseling for veterans moving through the court system, and drug rehabilitation programs for inmates at the Williamson County Jail.
Jim McHenry, an alcohol and drug abuse counselor, and June McHenry, a licensed social worker, founded Educare 1998 after two judges asked them to create a batterer’s intervention program. The organization’s mission eventually expanded to include substance abuse and mental health treatment.
Jim McHenry retired in 2005, and around that time Owens stepped in to lead the organization. in 2017, McHenry died, and Owens said the company decided to switch to a nonprofit model to make sure his vision for the organization would continue.
Owens said he hopes switching to a nonprofit model will help the organization expand its programming and provide services for more people.
“There is a lot of grant money that we’re missing out on due to one reason or another,” he said. “My hope was that we could access funding that is available, and ultimately help more people.”
Becoming a nonprofit allows Educare to get access to more grant funding through the state or federal government. Those grants could become an important source of funding going forward.
In his state of the state address this week, Governor Bill Lee specifically highlighted how nonprofits can play a role in reducing recidivism. Lee served on the board of a nonprofit that prepares men in prison to reenter society.
Of those who are incarcerated, 95% are not serving a life sentence and will eventually come out – and we need to be sure they are prepared for that. Why? Because every successful reentry means one less crime, and one less victim. #TNSOTS
— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) March 4, 2019
Last month, Lee proposed $1.7 million in additional funding for recovery courts in Tennessee. According to a press release from the Governor’s office, that could expand drug court capacity by about 20 percent, serving an extra 500 people each year.
Educare currently has about 150 to 200 clients in a given month.
The organization often provides treatment for people in the 21st District Recovery Court. The 21st District Recovery Court is also a nonprofit organization separate from the regular court system.
Judges can send drug offenders to the 21st District Recovery Court as part of their sentence, and the recovery court can contract with outside organizations like Educare to provide treatment.
In addition to getting access to more funding as a nonprofit, Owens said the new label also gives the organization more credibility. It erases any doubts about the organization’s motives.
“It lends some neutrality … It brings a certain sense of integrity that may not be as well received as a for-profit agency,” he said. “The treatment industry is very, very profit driven. We don’t want to be that. We were one of the for-profits that were doing good work.”
Switching from a for-profit company to a nonprofit organization took a long time. Owens said the group created a new nonprofit organization and then slowly started to wind down the existing LLC.
Since it was technically a new company, the nonprofit had to get new state licenses. The company had to wait for existing contracts to expire and create new contracts. Eventually, Educare transferred all of its functions to the nonprofit organization. The company officially completed the switch this past September.
The company offers its services in Williamson County, but the 21st Judicial District also includes Hickman, Lewis and Perry Counties. Owens said he hopes switching to a nonprofit model will allow the company to expand its services into those counties.
While Educare offers a variety of programs, Owens said they’re all trying to achieve the same goal. He said the organization wants to give people treatment so that they can stay out of jail and become productive members of society.
“These aren’t ideas we came up with. We’re just duplicating what research and data prove,” Owens said. “That’s all we’re trying to do, follow what works.”