Walter Williams is a “businessman with an eye for recovery.” For over 25 years, he has been dedicated to changing the odds for people suffering from addiction in Memphis. After entering recovery himself, Williams felt called to give back and chose to leave his small business to focus full time on improving the quality of drug and alcohol treatment throughout the city.  

Williams worked as the Executive Director of Synergy Treatment Centers for 15 years before leaving to found First Step Recovery Centers and work with Mid-South Sober Living. First Step, located in the heart of Midtown Memphis, provides high quality outpatient treatment in a close-knit, family-like environment. First Step offers services at little or no cost to the individual, made possible by funding through the Tennessee Departments of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. They also provide DUI classes and are working to expand their services to other counties in Tennessee.  

Founded in 2008 by Andy BranhamMidSouth Sober Living works in partnership with First Step, providing “the opportunity for people new in recovery to learn to live outside of the structure of a rehabilitation program while maintaining their alcohol and drug free lifestyle.” Williams worked as a volunteer Executive Director for four years as the organization got on its feet. MidSouth currently operates three facilities, one for men and two for women. Those living at MidSouth Sober Living facilities can participate in treatment anywhere, not just at First Step. The important thing is that they are getting help, according to Williams.  

Williams has also jumped at other chances to address gaps in substance abuse treatment in Memphis. Recently, he founded Judicare, which provides housing and intensive outpatient treatment for individuals referred by the Shelby County Recovery Courts. These include Drug CourtVeteran’s Court, and Mental Health Court. Recovery courts offer programs that address substance abuse and mental health problems of non-violent offenders as an alternative to jail-time. Evidence shows that these programs have a significant impact on recidivism in the state of Tennessee, with 81% of those in a Tennessee Recovery Court securing a job or seeing improvement in their job status and 28% of those who were formerly homeless or living in a group home securing an independent living situation. Judicare is the first rehabilitation facility of its kind in the country, offering 38 beds specifically for men in any of the recovery court programs in Shelby County. Williams and others are working hard to open a second facility for women in the coming years. 

Despite all these accomplishments, Williams stresses that there is always more to do to help fight substance abuse and its consequences. Though addiction is a disease of the brain, it is often treated as a moral failing. Changing attitudes towards substance abuse is the first step towards developing a more restorative approach to treatment and prevention. There is no doubt that Williams will continue to fight these misconceptions and reduce the gaps in treatment in Memphis.  

To learn more about First Step Recovery Centers, MidSouth Sober Living, or the Shelby County Recovery Courts, you can visit their websites in the links above, You can also visit our treatment locator to find other options in Memphis. You can also learn more about financial considerations here.   


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