Recovery is focus of Palmetto Center

Substance use disorder is a life-limiting and often life-destroying disability. Services provided at VR's Palmetto Center can help guide individuals through the emotional and physical aspects of confronting an addiction so that they can replace it with a rewarding lifestyle.

“We help our consumers understand how their whole body is affected by substance use disorder,” says Helene Goldsmith, Supervisor at Palmetto Center.

Employment aids in recovery

Troy Conner was determined to make a change in his life.

“I never knew that I could live without drugs,” he says. “But I wanted to be clean.”

Asking for help led him to be referred to Palmetto Center.

“They saved my life,” he says, emotion in his voice. ”They helped me understand what the real problem was, why I wanted to get high, why I didn't care about myself.”

Understanding that substance use disorder is a disease and learning how to manage it helped Conner begin his recovery, while the structure introduced by the program has been vital in helping him maintain sobriety. Palmetto Center also helped him find a place to live at an Oxford House, a democratically run, self-supporting, and drug free home.

Another crucial aspect of his recovery was finding and maintaining a job.

“Employment is imperative to recovery and staying sober,” he says. “Before coming to Palmetto Center, I was unemployable.”

Staff helped Conner develop soft skills, explore careers, and find a job which led to his current employment as a confined space cleaner for a company that produces high performance adhesives. The adhesives are transported in big tanker trucks. Conner pressure cleans the interior of the tanks after the trucks return from delivery.

Conner credits the skills and tools learned at Palmetto Center with helping him gain employment. He also takes pride in the fact that “I'm employable now.”

Conner helps others at the Oxford House develop a structure for daily living, attends NA meetings, and continues to keep in touch with his counselor at Palmetto Center.

Reflecting on the past two years, he says, “If I hadn't gone to work and gone to structured living, I wouldn't have made it.”

He's grateful and appreciative of both the services he received at Palmetto Center and the staff that worked with him.

“They really, genuinely care. I get emotional just thinking about it. They're always trying to help you. It saved my life.”

Addiction is a disease that changes the brain, and these changes remain long after a person stops using drugs or alcohol, she explains. “Addiction can also cause physical problems and disorders, as well as mental and emotional distress. It can lead to changes in behavior and interrupt daily life patterns, such as eating and sleeping.”

Recovery from addiction means not only ending alcohol or substance use, but learning new ways of thinking, feeling, and dealing with problems. It isn't easy, and there are no short cuts.

To better reflect the types of therapeutic services offered at Palmetto Center, VR has changed from using the term “treatment” to “recovery.”

“Palmetto Center has been at the core of service delivery for VR for several decades,” says Felicia W. Johnson, Commissioner. “We are dedicated to helping our consumers overcome barriers to employment and substance use addiction is a barrier that negatively impacts the individual, as well as their family and community. Palmetto Center offers a holistic approach to recovery, providing rehabilitation services to help consumers achieve their ultimate goal of employment.”

Recovery is a lifelong process and each person’s journey of recovery is unique.

“We help individuals begin to modify their attitudes and behaviors, improve their life skills, and address co-occurring issues that may be present, such as anxiety or depression,” says Goldsmith. “A unique aspect of our services is the the focus on helping each person find or maintain employment. And after they complete the program here, consumers continue to receive services and support from their local VR office and their community.”

The primary approach used at Palmetto Center is group therapy, which encourages participants to learn about themselves and others with similar struggles through open discussions. It is often a deep, emotional experience. Combined with other behavioral therapies, this provides a strong foundation and structure for recovery.

To enter the voluntary four-week residential program, a person must be a VR consumer, be tested for tuberculosis, and be opioid, stimulant, depressant, and hallucinogen free for at least 10 days or alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana free for three days.

Consumers beginning the recovery program are given a full assessment by the nursing staff. They participate in group and individual therapy sessions throughout their stay and address issues including anger management, conflict resolution, personal development and relapse prevention. Family therapy sessions are offered each week. Consumers also learn how nutrition, exercise and recreation benefit their health and recovery.

During their second week job preparedness instruction begins, and by the end of the program, consumers will have completed a vocational assessment, participated in career exploration and mock interviews, learned how to dress for success, and created a resume. They also receive information about resources available in the community they live in.

Substance use disorder continues to be a significant problem for South Carolina, especially with the rise of the opioid crisis. It is estimated that more than 400,000* individuals in the state aged 12 or older are dependent on, or misuse, alcohol or drugs each year. This makes the services provided at Palmetto Center more vital than ever.

Fast facts

  • To enter the program, a person must be a VR consumer, tested for tuberculosis, and be opioid, stimulant, depressant, and hallucinogen free for at least 10 days and/or alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana free for three days.
  • Consumers receive organized program structure, practice skills and follow a routine they can take with them. Once they return home, consumers continue to receive services from their local VR counselor.
  • Relapse prevention helps individuals identify their triggers, learn skills for coping with cravings, and develop plans for handling stressful situations, and what to do if they relapse.
  • Employment and career success is an integral part of recovery. A specialist works with each consumer to identify strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, and interests that will lead to a successful employment outcome.
  • One of the few residential/in-patient recovery services available without cost. Consumers may receive additional support through numerous partnerships once they leave Palmetto Center.
  • Peer support speakers: former consumers share how the services offered at Palmetto Center helped them overcome addiction, plus the success they have found in their personal and professional lives.
  • Family members are encouraged to take advantage of visitation and family therapy.
  • Licensed through DHEC (Department of Health and Environmental Control) as an in-patient residential facility to treat patients with psychoactive substance misuse or dependency.
  • Staff includes counselors licensed or credentialed in addictions, brain injury, domestic abuse and global career development facilitation.
  • Licensed nurses provide basic medical care and supervision for residential consumers. Medical needs are closely monitored, including administration of essential medications.
  • 24-hour care.
  • In the early stages of receiving CARF accreditation. The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) is an independent, nonprofit organization focused on advancing the quality of health and human services. CARF accreditation will demonstrate Palmetto Center's commitment to putting consumer needs at the center of everything they do, continuously improving service quality, and meeting internationally accepted standards of service.
  • Provided services to South Carolinians since 1962.

Goldsmith adds that there is also an increase in dual diagnoses. Many individuals may have depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or some other physical issue such as diabetes.

“It's not just substance misuse alone that we're dealing with any more,” she says. “To effectively address the substance misuse, we also have to address these other issues. Treating both increases a person's ability to successfully recover.”

Palmetto Center can house up to 60 individuals in an environment featuring exercise, meditation and healthy living programs. More than 40 therapeutic groups have been added to the program and address topics such as understanding the effects of substance use, intervention, managing emotions, and effective recreation.

For almost 60 years, recovery services for substance use disorder have been provided at VR’s Palmetto Center. More than 30,000 South Carolinians have passed through the Center’s doors, where they received care, guidance, structure, and a foundation for recovery from addiction. Although treatment and methodologies have changed and evolved over the years, the core mission remains the same: to help individuals with substance use addiction achieve or retain competitive employment.

* Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Behavioral Health Barometer: South Carolina, 2015. HHS Publication No. SMA–16–Baro–2015–SC. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2015.

The Recovery Process**

Recovery happens over time. The process occurs as people learn how substance use addiction affects them physically and mentally and they begin to manage their behavior. Recovery encompasses the following:

  • Stopping use of alcohol and drugs
  • Staying away from negative influences and establishing social networks that support recovery
  • Stopping negative and self-­defeating behaviors
  • Learning to manage feelings and emotions responsibly
  • Learning to change addictive thinking patterns
  • Identifying and changing mistaken beliefs that promote irrational thinking

** TASC, Inc. “Substance Use Disorders: A Guide to the Use of Language.” Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), 2004.


Addiction is a chronic disease, like diabetes or heart disease, meaning there is no cure. But addiction can be managed, and people with addiction can, and do, recover.

Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.

Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.

*** “American Society of Addiction Medicine.” ASAM Definition of Addiction,