Dr. James Groce Retires, Leaving a 47-year Legacy at SouthLight
There’s a lot of life-saving, life-changing work that goes on here. And I’m really glad to be part of it. –Dr. James Groce
SouthLight opened its doors in 1970, and Dr. Groce joined what was then called Drug Action of Wake County in 1974. His legacy includes six decades of staying in the forefront of substance use treatment. He says the one thing that hasn’t changed is that the focus has always been patient-centered.
Our SouthLight family is filled with gratitude and appreciation for Dr. Groce’s leadership, contributions, perseverance and compassion for those who we serve. Our CEO Adam Hartzell said. “As our longest-serving team member, and one of the most committed advocates for those in recovery in the state, his huge presence will be missed. “
The way we approach treatment and the substances people use have changed over the years, but our goal has always been the same. The focus has always been patient-centered
We talked with Dr. Groce to find out what’s been most meaningful about his work in behavioral health, what’s kept him at SouthLight his entire career, and what words of hope and wisdom he can share.
What drew you to the field of behavioral health and substance use treatment?
I got interested in substance use before I came to SouthLight. It started in medical school in 1967 where a lot of our fellow students were having difficulties, and using a variety of drugs. I kept my eye out for substance use treatments for students.
What’s kept you here at SouthLight all these years?
SouthLight has always been on the crest of the wave of treating substance abuse. The trouble with substance abuse is that it keeps changing. What is being abused one week is not necessarily the same problem next week.
SouthLight has always been on the crest of the wave of treating substance abuse.
One thing about SouthLight is that we’re so close to the substance abuse community and we see people regularly. We really are more in touch with what’s happening on the street than many of the medical providers. There’s a lot of life-saving, life-changing work that goes on here. And I’m really glad to be part of it.
You’ve witnessed so much change and growth throughout our organization in 47 years. What hasn’t changed?
The way we approach treatment and the substances people use have changed over the years, but our goal has always been the same. The focus has always been patient-centered; helping individuals and families deal with the problems of substance use and improve their functioning.
What’s been most gratifying about your work here at SouthLight?
The individual contact is what I thrive on. I can coast for days on that feedback when people say ‘You helped me.’ What I most enjoy is the individual feedback from people who say “you helped me.”
The individual contact is what I thrive on. I can coast for days on that feedback when people say “You helped me.”
This is a very difficult time. People continue to struggle with the pandemic, mental health, the opioid crisis. What can you share to give people hope?
The number one thing is you have to be flexible. You must constantly adjust what you are doing to meet the realities of what you see in front of you that week. If you’re flexible and you can keep changing what you’re doing, you’re going to do alright. You’ve got to meet challenges with new ideas and hang out with creative people because they’ll give you ideas and energy to attack problems.
The number one thing is you have to be flexible. You must constantly adjust what you are doing to meet the realities of what you see in front of you that week
What advice do you have for anyone entering the field of behavioral health?
Learn as much as you can. Your future jobs will be assured because It’s a growth industry.
We need all the creative and enthusiastic treatment people we can get.
What message would you like to share with our SouthLight family to let them know how important their work is?
Their work is super important because they really are saving people’s lives. This is a deadly epidemic of substance use. People really are dying on the streets. It’s tough out there. We have to give each other feedback because sometimes that’s the only place you get it–from your colleagues.
You can get burned out pretty quickly, so you have to encourage and support each other. Don’t ever get discouraged even if people aren’t always grateful, because what you’re doing really is important. In the long run it’s going to provide benefits that you won’t even know about.
I have a small farm, and I am thinking about spending more time there, and planting a garden.
About SouthLight Healthcare:
Founded in 1970, SouthLight Healthcare is one of the area’s largest nonprofit providers of substance use treatment and mental health services. SouthLight partners with individuals and communities to provide innovative treatment solutions delivered with compassion and dignity. With outpatient and community-based programs, SouthLight provides prevention, education, and treatment services in the Triangle and beyond. Call 919-787-6131 for help or more information or visit our Services page.