An Interview with Donte Stewart

A Conversation with the CEO of Arrow Passage Recovery

An Interview with Donte Stewart

A Conversation with the Founder of Arrow Passage Recovery


Meet Donte Stewart, born and raised in Massillon, OH, and founder of addiction treatment center Arrow Passage Recovery. In an interview from January 2021, Donte opens up about his background, the founding of Arrow Passage Recovery, and how he is giving back to the community he grew up in. Read the transcript below to learn more.

For more information about Arrow Passage Recovery, please call 844-347-0543

Tell us a bit about your background.

Donte Stewart:

I grew up, born and raised in Massillon, Ohio, a small town where everybody knows everybody.​​​1 We’re a blue-collar and close-knit town that was hit hard by drugs and addiction.

It’s a very high school football-oriented town. On any given Friday, you’ll see 20,000 fans at a high school football game in a city that has maybe 35,000. So that’s a significant number—a lot of empty houses on Friday nights here in this area.

I’m a mentor to the high school football team. It’s a great program. I’ve been doing that for two years; it’s going on three. I am with the young adults throughout the week and give advice. And they’ll ask me advice, maybe things that they might not feel comfortable talking to their parents about, and I try to be an extension of what I believe their parents would want me to say.

Why did you open Arrow Passage Recovery?

Donte Stewart:

Ohio was ground zero for addiction. And being that I lost my father to addiction, I felt that it was needed to bring a place, an added resource to help combat opioid addiction.

There weren’t many resources in this area. Of course, Massillon might not be the sexy place. It’s not Miami or the Carolinas, or California. But it was never about the sexy place for me. It was more, “What can I do in my community?” And for better or worse, whatever that looks like, give it my all, try my best.

You know, when you’re hooked on drugs, you’re treated like you have the black plague. So, I wanted to curb the stigma surrounding addiction and mental health. Recently society finally stood up and said enough is enough and started work to curb the stigma. Instead of being seen as a second-class human being, most people now know addiction is a disease.

What were the hurdles when you decided to open Arrow Passage Recovery?

Donte Stewart:

We incorporated in 2015 and opened our doors in 2016. Public trust was the biggest challenge. Being the new provider in town, gaining the trust, gaining the reputation; you have one shot to gain it and many shots to lose it

So we had a plan, but God’s going to laugh, right? You think you have it all mapped out, you think you know what needs to be done, but life brings unexpected challenges, like the pandemic. You need to keep learning and evolving all the time.

There is a big learning curve, and you have to stay current on policy, procedures of laws, everything. So, I think that was one of the biggest challenges. We had to learn and progress at the same time.

In the beginning, the first two years, two and a half years, I have a great associate who did much of the heavy lifting. We speak in length about new laws and new procedures. Even with the pandemic, they helped us stay compliant with the PPE and making sure everybody had masks, and what happens if this happens, what happens if that happens.

How hard was it to adjust to the pandemic?

Donte Stewart:

I mean, the screening process, the intake process is already invasive and very expensive, on that standpoint. And then you have to go a couple of steps further and dig into their current health; whether you have symptoms or do you have a fever? Does anybody in your household have symptoms? Is there anybody in the house with a fever? And as these symptoms were coming out by the CDC, it seemed like every five minutes, you get to add another line item to add to a potential patient each time.2

As information is given to me, that is also given to the employees. And keeping people in the habit of doing something new, it’s a hurdle within itself. I think they say something like, “It takes 30 days to create a habit.” So that’s a hurdle. 

Who works at Arrow Passage?

Donte Stewart:

We look for someone with passion that’s not in it for a paycheck. Chase the passion, have the passion, not the paycheck. We start assessing that passion in the initial interview process. There are a thousand resumes out there, but then you’ve got to have the X factor, the desire to help people recover. If you know anybody that has been touched by addiction, tell us your story. Whether it’s directly or indirectly, we want to hear it. But, finding somebody that checks all the boxes is the hardest part.

The pandemic is a challenge within itself for the staff. And I think we’re all dealing with that because we’re dealing with the population in closed quarters. We have families outside the facility. So that line is very thin. Your significant other, or kids, or whatever the case may be – keeping them safe is a concern and challenge for all the staff.

We have a very cohesive group. We all want to learn more. We all want to improve. We all believe in what we are doing. We know we’re all going to make mistakes, but at the same time, you don’t make the same mistake twice.

What’s your treatment philosophy?

Donte Stewart:

We try to incorporate everything Christian-based, 12-step programs, cognitive behavioral therapy. We try to incorporate everything. When the person comes in, we try to individualize that treatment plan for that person.

A lot of people will say they value individualized treatment, but we really put emphasis on it. There’s no one treatment plan. Your plan is not the same as another person’s plan. Even the aftercare plans need to be individualized to protect against relapse. And the goal is that when you come to Arrow Passage, we try to set you up to give you the best chance possible to get back on track and continue with your life.

Pull back to be propelled forward

Our whole motto is “pull back to be propelled forward.” And you can ask every one of our staff what that motto means to them, and you’re going to hear different variations of it, but it’s going to be the same sound; one beat, one sound. So, you’ll hear people’s individualized meaning behind what “pull back to be propelled forward” means, but it’s all going to be encompassing the same general aspect.

Gaining respect and setting expectations

When somebody comes into your facility, they’re afraid. They’re nervous. They don’t know what to expect. You have one time to make a first impression to gain their respect in us and vice versa. Building rapport when you first encounter someone is challenging. You also have to make sure that it’s clear, independent of what’s expected, what’s not expected, and what the plan is, and then executing it from there.

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