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50 YEARS OF EPIC – 1985-1995

50 Years 1985

According to Skip Forsyth, HRS (Health & Rehabilitation Services) – a precursor to the present-day Dept. of Children and Families and a funder of DEPC, asked DEPC to partner with 2 treatment centers in Jacksonville to collaborate on a federal grant.  DEPC did participate and the grant was awarded.  The funding was used to open a teen center (more about that later!) but a lot of time and effort went into the grant and in planning.  This large grant led to substantial growth for DEPC including its budget and number of employees.

The Protection and Advocacy for the Mentally Ill Act was passed in Congress in 1985.  This Act was designed to protect and advocate for the rights of the mentally ill.

In 1985, the number of people who admitted using cocaine on a routine basis increased from 4.2 million to 5.8 million.  Also in 1985, the DEA classified MDMA (Ecstasy) as a Schedule 1 controlled substance which made it officially illegal.

Happening in 1985:

  • Ronald Reagan was President
  • Careless Whisper was the #1 Song
  • Amadeus won the Oscar for Best Picture
  • The Cosby Show was the top-rated television show.
  • Coca-Cola Company introduces New Coke.

Taking the week-long Drug Abuse Awareness Week, a step further, DEPC launched “OcSoberFest” – a month-long campaign with a variety of activities to educate the community about the effects of drug and alcohol abuse.  Other organizations assisted with organizing the various activities which included a prayer breakfast, educational programs at schools and in the community, the screening of a prevention video, a luncheon, and kick-off at Ponce de Leon which included giveaways and entertainment.  A street dance was also held as part of the OcSoberFest activities.

Happening in 1986:

  • Ronald Reagan was President.
  • That’s What Friends are For was the #1 Song.
  • Out of Africa won the Oscar for Best Picture.
  • The Cosby Show was the top-rated television show.
  • The “Hands Across America” charity event is held.

OcSoberFest was held again in 1987 and like the year previously, included a fun kick-off at the Ponce de Leon Mall and other activities throughout the community including presentations, training for professionals, book giveaway, and a television broadcast.

DEPC was awarded a grant from the Florida Dept. of Education for Project Enrichment.  The purpose of Project Enrichment was to help families enhance the education their children were getting at school – especially for those working below their potential- all to prevent students from dropping out of school.

Happening in 1987:

  • Ronald Reagan was President.
  • Walk Like An Egyptian was the #1 Song.
  • Platoon won the Oscar for Best Picture
  • The Cosby Show was the top-rated television show.
  • The Ford Escort was the top selling car.

DEPC opened the Teen Alliance Center in May of 1988 – the outcome of the federal grant DEPC received a few years earlier.  The Teen Alliance Center offered drug-free alternative activities for youth ages 11-17 and a drug-free place to hang out.

OcSoberFest activities also took place again in 1988.

Happening in 1988:

  • Ronald Reagan was President and George H.W. Bush won the election.
  • Faith was the #1 Song
  • The Last Emperor won the Oscar for Best Picture
  • The Cosby Show was the top-rated television show.
  • Microsoft Office software was launched.

The first year of the Teen Alliance Center saw around 150 youth take advantage of the drug-free environment and activities.

DEPC developed the “PASA” Card (People Against Substance Abuse) which DEPC supporters could purchase and then receive discounts at area businesses.

DEPC hosted a “Springtime-89 Rally” which was focused on drug abuse prevention efforts with families and included a walk and rally.  Additionally, DEPC coordinated Red Ribbon Week activities for St. Johns County.

A unique fundraiser was held for DEPC by JC Penney – a Best Legs Contest, of which Skip Forsyth, Executive Director, was a contestant.  (When we were interviewing Skip for the 50 Days of EPIC, he funnily enough had blocked this memory! 😀)

Happening in 1989:

  • George H.W. Bush was President
  • Miss You Much was the #1 Song
  • Rain Man won the Oscar for Best Picture
  • Roseanne was the top-rated television show.
  • Nintendo released the Game Boy.
50 days of EPIC 1990

After over a decade of guidance by Skip Forsyth, DEPC welcomed new Executive Director Patti Greenough who arrived at DEPC with 16 years of experience working in community development and working with youth and families.

DEPC was awarded a grant that allowed the start of a new program called New Directions.  New Directions targeted pregnant teens or teen mothers and provided life skills training and counseling services and promoted drug-free lifestyles.

Another new program beginning in 1990 was the ALPHA program.  ALPHA was a partnership between DEPC and the school district.  The program provided professional counseling and academic assistance for 7-14 year old youth were considered high risk for drug use.  This program took place at the partnering schools.

DEPC hosted a fundraising membership drive that allowed individuals, families, and businesses to support the fight against drug abuse by supporting EPIC.

DEPC offered Intervention Services for those individuals who needed a safety net to recover from alcohol or other drug abuse.  Services were ongoing and included counseling, assessment, classroom work, multi-family groups, and client tracking through and after treatment.

To help with the new programs and any transportation issues, DEPC was able to purchase a 12 passenger van to transport clients to and from program events.

Happening in 1990:

  • George H.W. Bush was President
  • Hold On was the #1 Song
  • Driving Miss Daisy won the Oscar for Best Picture
  • Cheers was the top-rated television show.
  • The Hubble Space Telescope was deployed into space.

DEPC’s Rent-A-Teen program partnered with St. Augustine General Hospital and the Red Cross to present a Summer Safety Seminar for young adults.  In addition to drug awareness education presented by DEPC, participants learned basic first aid, babysitting certification, fire safety, bicycle safety, and employability skills. 

The 1991 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse showed that 37% of the population had tried marijuana, cocaine, or other illicit drugs at least once in their lifetime. 

Happening in 1991: 

George H.W. Bush was President.

(Everything I Do) I Do It for You was the #1 Song.

Dances with Wolves won the Oscar for Best Picture

60 Minutes was the top-rated television show.

Salsa sales surpassed ketchup sales for the 1st time. 

DEPC continued to host an annual Red Ribbon Campaign which in 1992 culminated in an Awareness Walk and Fair.

DEPC was awarded an ACTION Grant to establish a community volunteer program called “Friends Against Drugs”.  Volunteers helped in many of the DEPC programs and allowed for opportunities to be tailored to fit each volunteer’s time and talents.

DEPC launched LEAP – the Lincolnville Educational Assistance Program and provided DEPC services to youth in the Lincolnville area of St. Augustine.  Services included tutoring and homework assistance, computer instruction, recreation and cultural activities, and small-group education classes.

Also in 1992, Congress established the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to make substance use and mental disorder information, services, and research more accessible.

Happening in 1992:

  • George H.W. Bush was President and Bill Clinton won the election
  • End of the Road was the #1 Song
  • The Silence of the Lambs won the Oscar for Best Picture
  • 60 Minutes was the top -rated television show.
  • The cable television network “Cartoon Network” was established.

DEPC celebrated 20 years of service to the community!  Part of the celebration included a Gala fundraiser held at the Old Jail.

DEPC developed an AIDS education and outreach program in collaboration with the St. Johns County Health Department, Hospice, and other health agencies in the community.

DEPC continued to offer 7 primary programs:  Community Prevention Services (including Red Ribbon Week and other prevention/educational activities), ALPHA (which had begun to target 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders), New Directions, the Teen Alliance Center, LEAP, Friends Against Drugs, and Intervention Services (now with a focus on adolescents and a new name:  Children/Adolescent Counseling Services).

In 1993, DEPC also moved from our Orange Street offices to the Solla Carcaba building at 88 Riberia St.

But DEPC didn’t rest on its laurels!  New programs were also added in 1993:  Connections – which provided pregnant, parenting, and disabled youth, ages 14-21, with a wide range of employability training; and HELP – Hastings Enhancement Learning Program, a community youth center & programs located in Hastings (to join DEPC’s other 2 youth centers:  LEAP and the Teen Alliance Center).

In 1993, DEPC hosted the St. Johns County Future Search Conference where 55 professionals from the community gathered for a 3-day event to create a community vision in response to drug use problems.

Happening in 1993

  • Bill Clinton was President.
  • I Will Always Love You was the #1 Song.
  • Unforgiven won the Oscar for Best Picture
  • 60 Minutes was the top-rated television show.
  • The first Beanie Babies were introduced.

DEPC became the sponsoring organization of the local Big Brothers Big Sisters of St. Johns County (BBBS) – a move described as a ‘match made in heaven’ as the nationally known mentoring program fit right in with EPIC’s educational and prevention program services.  BBBS remained a full affiliate member of BBBS of America with EPIC handling administrative functions.  Oversight was provided by a local Advisory Council.

DEPC worked with community partners in coordinating the 1st Project Graduation – an all-night celebration for St. Johns County graduating seniors.  Students partied in a safe and drug-free environment with music, dancing, games, food, and door prizes.

DEPC also started a program known as MIME – Marionettes in Multi-Cultural Education.

Happening in 1994:

  • Bill Clinton was President.
  • (I Saw) The Sign was the #1 Song
  • Schindler’s List won the Oscar for Best Picture
  • Seinfeld was the top-rated television show.
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Puffs Cereal debuted – the first cereal based on candy.

DEPC changed its name to EPIC Community Services.  With the growth of services/programs offering more treatment and serving more populations, the Board and staff decided that the organization needed a more wholistic name.  At this time, EPIC wasn’t an acronym – it was chosen because of it’s definition and the feeling that those on their recovery journey from substance use or mental health disorders were truly on an epic journey fighting an epic batter and EPIC was here for them.

The JUMP (Juvenile Mentoring Program) began with a grant from the US Dept. of Juvenile Justice and was run by Big Brothers Big Sisters of St. Johns County, now under EPIC’s umbrella.  This grant allowed BBBS to offer site-based mentoring for the first time.  Volunteers could visit their “little’s” at the child’s school and spend time with them on school campus playing games and helping with homework.

EPIC hosted a six-week Summer Camp for children in EPIC programs.  This camp was for children enrolled in EPIC programs and was in response to parents’ requests to have an activity for their children during the idle summer months.  The 6-2-week summer camp focused on career development, personal health and wellness, positive communication, and conflict resolution skills.

Happening in 1995:

  • Bill Clinton was President.
  • Gangsta’s Paradise was the #1 Song.
  • Forrest Gump won the Oscar for Best Picture
  • ER was the top-rated television show.
  • Steve Fossett became the 1st person to make a solo flight across the Pacific Ocean in a hot air balloon.