Dave Durocher saw the inside of a jail cell when he was just 13. By 38, he had been arrested 12 times, spending roughly 15 years in prison. He remembers being an addict, a liar, and caring only about himself. In 2005, when he was in a high speed chase with LA Police, Dave was facing 30 years in prison. He was determined not to go back to prison so he attempted suicide by cop. That didn’t work so he found himself begging a judge for an opportunity to go to Delancey Street, a residential rehabilitation program. In what the judge called “the chance of a lifetime”, he allowed Dave a shot at Delancey Street but warned him about the three-decade prison sentence waiting for him if he messed up. Dave successfully completed the two-year program and went on to become Delancey’s Managing Director, responsible for 250 residents and several vocational programs. In 2015, Dave helped launch a similar program called The Other Side Academy (TOSA) where he is now the Executive Director. Recently, they opened another academy in Denver and have plans to open several more around the country, including San Diego.
When I first heard about TOSA’s model, I had to see it for myself. I went to Salt Lake City, met with Dave and his team and talked with several people in the program. I was blown away! Back in San Diego, I immediately started working on creating this unique model in our region. TOSA’s motto is “We Save Lives by Changing Behavior”. The intense program teaches convicts, homeless, and addicts how to lead better lives by changing destructive personal behavior patterns, developing healthy social skills, taking responsibility for their own lives and valuable work skills. The academy is self-sustaining with the income generated by two businesses it owns and operates. Residents are required to work at those businesses or cook and clean to maintain the home they share. Used as an alternative to prison, the TOSA model saves local and state governments millions of dollars a year and it also contributes with its business taxes. My fellow County Supervisors gave the project their blessing, the Sheriff and the District Attorney are also on board so now, County staff is looking for the perfect piece of property for the academy.