Grace to Change

Grace to Change

Nonprofit changes lives, community

By Sonia Duggan

Conquering a drug or alcohol addiction takes willpower, time, and a lot of money. But if you live in Collin County and need assistance, help is available that won’t cost you your job, your life savings, or your family.

For the last 12 years, Shannon White, founder and executive director of Grace to Change (GTC), has been providing outpatient treatment in a safe, welcoming environment to indigent residents and individuals without health insurance battling a variety of addictions.

The nonprofit takes individuals with insurance; however, the bulk of its clients are referred by LifePath Systems, the county’s behavioral health authority.

In Collin County, aside from LifePath, White said GTC is one of just two resources for [county funded] outpatient treatment, and the only adolescent provider.

“Most are Medicaid patients between the ages of 14-17 years old sent to us through probation,” White said. 

If medication management is needed, White said it is managed by LifePath. 

“There’s some that we have to put into a detox in order to just get them stable enough physically to be able to be in treatment,” she said. “Detoxing from fentanyl, detoxing from Xanax, detoxing from alcohol, those are medical and those will kill you. So, even though you will feel terrible on heroin, it won’t kill you to get off it.”

White and her team treat about 125-150 clients per year, and to date she said, “we’ve had about 1,100 clients graduate.”

Former client testimonials espouse acceptance, a family-like atmosphere, and thankfulness for Grace to Change.

White, a former addict herself, and her four employees, understand firsthand
what their clients are experiencing.  

“One [employee] was addicted to heroin. One was addicted to methamphetamine. One was addicted to Xanax and opiates and marijuana,” White said. “And then our receptionist is a mother of two children that went through our program.”

Kim Hughes, receptionist, recalled her experience eight years ago when her 14-year-old daughter was accepted to the Collin County Juvenile drug court, an intensive program that also required her to attend treatment at Grace to Change. 

“Unlike any rehabilitation center we had tried previously, there was a completely different atmosphere and sense of understanding and empathy that we immediately could feel,” Hughes said. “These were some of the darkest times in both of our lives and we were welcomed with open arms and listening ears.”

The program developed by White is 12 weeks long. The first six weeks involves intensive outpatient treatment (IOP) including 18 group counseling sessions three times per week and four one-hour individual counseling sessions followed by six weeks of supportive outpatient treatment (SOP) that includes 12 group counseling sessions and three individual counseling sessions.

The program model has been adapted over the years, and White said they try to “ebb and flow the content” with the groups they have to avoid repetition and keep it fresh.

Unlike Alcoholics Anonymous or other treatment centers, White said her program does not include steps. 

“That’s not what I do, because you can get that for free at AA,” she said, adding “we just keep it relevant. Right now, we’re doing a lot of conversations about fitness because it is everywhere,” 

Other topics include anger management and communication. 

“We really stress dealing with life without drugs, and not so much talking about drugs,” she said.

After successful completion of the initial treatment plan, White said, GTC offers free (weekly) aftercare for life, joking that “it’s a terrible business model.”

Grace, awareness

White’s personal journey to sobriety almost 16 years ago began with an expensive, out of state inpatient program that she said was “not helpful” at all. The former elementary school teacher said once she got sober, she knew she wanted to help other people. 

She went back to school to become a licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor, and there she learned about outpatient treatment. 

“I love the concept of an outpatient because it allows people to get sober and keep their job and maintain their family and do those things,” she said. 

She went to work for a treatment center in Plano and said, “I just fell in love with it.”

Although she anticipated treating other women like herself who drank too much, she said she was soon thrown into the legal system part of it, “because about 90% of the people that we come in contact with either have legal issues or child protective services in their life.”

The legal system provided a good accountability piece for helping people get sober, said White, and she began working with the drug court on a jail-alternative treatment program until, at the suggestion of a judge, she began teaching a type of behavioral therapy known as Moral Reconation Therapy to jail inmates. 

Almost five years into her recovery, White said she knew she wanted to start her own treatment center, and with some family financial help she was able to secure a space in McKinney.

“It’s right by the courthouse, it’s right by probation,” she said. “And we’ve been here ever since.”

As part of the GTC mission, White often speaks to community groups and schools about addiction-related topics. Lately, the focus has been on fentanyl awareness.

In May, White spoke at The Potter’s House and a mosque in Dallas County, among others, about fentanyl, saying “we need to get the word out to everybody about it now.”

The director said they’ve lost two clients — a 16-year-old and a 42-year-old — to fentanyl, adding that they drug test for it and offer the service to the community.

“I would say at minimum three times a week, we have someone testing positive for fentanyl,” she said.

GTC orders Narcan every month from a group called “MoreNarcanPlease” that distributes state funded Naxalone in Texas. 

“We make sure police departments and school districts have all that they need,” she said.

Not only is the drug prevalent, but the issue with it, said White, is the fact that people think the drug is contained within a fentanyl pill.

“No, it’s in Percocet. It’s in methamphetamine. It’s in Xanax, Adderall, and the most pronounced one we’re finding it in now is marijuana,” she said.

According to the DEA, 107,375 people died of drug overdoses in 2022, and “a staggering 67% of those deaths involved synthetic opioids like fentanyl.”

At the June 8 McKinney City Council meeting, a $100,000 grant was directed to GTC using part of its first tranche of funds following a $1.6 billion statewide Opioid Abatement settlement agreement last year. The funds will be used by GTC for treatment of opioid awareness disorders, overdose medications, community training, and much more.

“We are grateful McKinney worked quickly to disperse these funds so we can continue our important work serving adolescents and adults,” White wrote on the GTC Facebook page.

The clinic has operated as a nonprofit since 2017 to better serve the indigent population and qualify for funding from the county. And unlike for-profit clinics, White said even though she has a full adolescent group and probably 28 to 30 adults in her adult group, “it doesn’t pay enough to keep the lights on here.” 

Volunteers are always needed to host fundraisers or to help donate snacks and meals on group therapy nights which happen during dinner time, said White. “If we can provide a meal for them, that gives them $10 more that they could spend on gas.”

Additional donations, she said, are necessary to help the nonprofit continue to change the lives of teens and adults in the community.

“It’s super hard to get donations because most people don’t see the value in helping someone with their addiction,” she said. “So, we’re trying to get people to understand that you can pay $100 a day and put them in jail in Collin County or $50 a night to help them get better so they don’t end up going back to jail and become productive citizens of the county.”

To donate or get help, visit

Call 972-542-2900

Donate by mail: Grace to Change, 1216 N. Central Expressway, Ste. 104, McKinney, TX 75070