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Up Close | Jim Whittaker of Circles of Care, Inc.

Healthcare Includes Mind & Emotions

Circles of Care, Inc., among the Best in State

Through a combination of smart business practices, active lobbying and innovative care practices, Circles of Care, Inc., has been serving the emotional and mental health needs of residents since 1963 when it first opened in a condemned school building with six employees as the Brevard Guidance Center.

Today, the organization manages a $39 million annual budget, employs more than 500 people and provides a continuum of inpatient and outpatient care for adults and children for a variety of conditions and situations, including substance abuse, suicide prevention, mental health crises and others. That is a good thing, as the state has not fared so well in its treatment of mental health patients, according to the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, Inc., which ranked Florida dead last among all states for health care expenditures in 2017.

“Even though Florida ranks 50 out of all the states, we (Circles of Care) are ranked #26 in effectiveness for our programs and facilities,” said David Feldman, the new president and CEO.

Feldman, who’s been with the organization for 36 years – most recently as executive vice president and treasurer – replaces president and CEO James B. Whitaker (Jim), who retired after 46 years in April.

“I joined when we were opening our first hospital, a 52-bed unit in Melbourne. It was the first mental health center hospital in the state.” Whitaker said, noting that of the 72 community mental health centers in Florida, only five have hospitals.

According to the American Psychological Association, mental illness affects as many as 45 million Americans on any given day. At least 11 million have chronic/serious mental illness and nearly half of all U.S. adults will develop at least one mental health illness during their lifetime.

In Florida, it is estimated almost 700,000 adults and nearly 200,000 children live with some form of serious mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, severe depression or schizophrenia. Failure to treat these conditions spreads outward in a tangled web that usually includes alcohol, drug and substance abuse, petty and serious crimes, violence and incarceration.

Circles of Care programs are designed to help prevent those outcomes. With strategically located outpatient centers in north, south and central Brevard, as well as outreach programs for families and children, and residential facilities serving the severely mentally ill, the mission is to promote and provide high-quality mental health, alcohol, drug abuse and related services to those most in need. The organization employs certified professionals who utilize evidence-based clinical processes to diagnose and treat mental health conditions.

Additionally, advances in care and better understanding of mental health disorders have resulted in treatment shifts. Just a few decades ago, for example, it was widely believed mental health issues caused substance abuse. Today, mental health professionals understand that often, mental health conditions and addiction are inseparable, and treatment protocols have been updated to address both the addiction and conditions, said Barry Hensel, vice president for clinical services for Circles of Care.

Twin Rivers, the substance abuse detoxification program managed by Circles of Care, includes a 20-bed facility for short-term detox and a 10-bed rehabilitation facility that requires a 28-day stay. Most short-term detox patients are referred by law enforcement or family, though some are voluntary. In the long-term program, all are voluntary, said Hensel.

Despite the progress, and successfully hurdling over unimaginable obstacles, the biggest fight in mental health treatment has also been the longest one: de-stigmatizing the conditions so people can feel comfortable enough to seek (and continue) appropriate treatment.

The least likely to do so, said Hensel, are the elderly. “They would rather seek the advice of a primary care physician than present with a mental health problem,” he said.
Millennials, on the other hand, are much more likely to seek services for the pressures and anxiety they experience, according to much literature.
Whatever your age or mental health needs, it is likely that Circles of Care can help. Fees for services are based on household income. For more information, visit online at www.circlesofcare.org or call 321-890-1550.

Circle of Care Has:

  • 52 Licensed hospital beds
  • 50 Licensed adult crisis stabilization beds
  • 78 Licensed residential and treatment beds
  • 20 Licensed chemical dependency detoxification beds
  • 10 Licensed chemical dependency intensive residential treatment beds
  • 16 Children’s crisis stabilization beds, as well as a complete continuum of outpatient care to provide services to residents of our community

A legend in Florida mental health circles, outgoing Circles of Care President and CEO James B. Whittaker and his team are widely credited with developing one of the state’s leading behavioral health care providers. His advocacy and efforts on behalf of the mentally ill are well documented; Whittaker leaves behind a staff of ardent supporters and a new treatment facility in Rockledge bearing his name.

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