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Steppingstone's History

Steppingstone’s History

In 1972, when alcohol use disorder was less understood and the efficacy of treatment was still considered controversial, Steppingstone’s founders began operating the innovative Men’s Recovery Home in the City of Fall River, Massachusetts. This residential program offers a sober living environment combined with a structured treatment program for men with substance use problems who are working towards recovery. After proving this model was effective at treating substance use disorders, Steppingstone opened three additional residential treatment programs in Bristol County – the Fall River Women’s Therapeutic Community in 1985, the New Bedford Women’s Therapeutic Community in 1998 and most recently the Transition House program for men with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders in 2019.  Both women’s programs also offer specialized services to pregnant and post-partum women and their infants.

While residents of these programs achieved many positive outcomes while in treatment, many expressed a need for continued support after they left the program. To provide continued support in a less structured environment, Steppingstone opened two graduate housing programs. The William B. Webster Program in Fall River was launched in 1985 and the New Bedford Graduate Program in New Bedford in 2002.

After working with this population for many years, Steppingstone determined that difficulty locating permanent housing was a major barrier to sustained recovery for those leaving residential or graduate housing. In order to address this need and support the local recovery infrastructure Steppingstone developed its first housing program in 1996. The Next Step Home program provides scattered-site housing and supportive services to approximately 50 homeless individuals and families with disabilities. This program has been enormously successful in achieving its goals, receiving HUD’s Best Practice award and sparking the development of three additional permanent housing programs -Stone Residence in 2004, Welcome Home in 2012, and Home First in 2016. Steppingstone continues to operate these programs, which provide approximately 100 units of permanent supportive housing in Fall River and New Bedford.

In order to improve the local continuum of care and further meet the needs of homeless individuals in Bristol County, Steppingstone opened the First Step Inn in 2003 to provide 20 emergency shelter beds to homeless individuals in Fall River. This was later expanded to 50 beds as the shelter moved to a large, state of the art facility in downtown Fall River which provides comprehensive services to those seeking emergency shelter.  Steppingstone continued developing innovative programming to meet the needs of this population with Project FAIHR (Focused Achievements in Housing and Recovery), which began providing wrap-around services to chronically homeless individuals and families in 2014, a as well as substance use treatment, housing placement and stabilization.

In order to increase access to and availability of quality substance use treatment services in Bristol County,Steppingstone launched its first Outpatient Clinic in Fall River in 1997.Since then, the Clinic has scaled up its capacity and services to continue meeting the needs of our community, becoming licensed to provide mental health treatment in 2009 and expanding to open a location in New Bedford in 2019, where it also began offering  critical Medication Assisted Treatment and wrap-around services.

When the opportunity arose in 2012 to add offender re-entry support and treatment for individuals with substance use disorders leaving incarceration, Steppingstone launched its first offender reentry program, Project ROAR (Re-Entering Offenders Achieving Recovery), serving both Bristol and Barnstable counties. 

As peer support became recognized as an effective method for supporting individuals striving to recover, the Agency added peer-based recovery support to its continuum of care in 2016, opening the Peer2Peer Recovery Support Center in Fall River. It also expanded to add Recovery Coach services in both New Bedford and Fall River in 2018.

Also in 2018, Steppingstone joined the Community Care Network (CCN), a partnership of community-based and human service organizations working to integrate care and improve health outcomes for MassHealth members with complex long-term and/or behavioral health needs.