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Happy 50th Anniversary to EPIC!

EPIC was incorporated as a non-profit on Oct. 10, 1973, and between Aug. 21 and Oct. 10, 2023, we are celebrating “50 Days of EPIC” by highlighting a year in EPIC’s history each day.  Come along with us on this journey as we look at EPIC’s early days as “Jam House”, the growth of programs and services offered by EPIC, what was happening in the behavioral health field both on a state-wide and national level, and some fun cultural facts from each year.  Check in each day and help us celebrate 50 years of Community Impact!


EPIC began as the Jam House in I973

A group of citizens who were concerned about youth substance use came together, and launched a new organization – Jam House, which was incorporated on Oct. 10, 1973.

The first Executive Director of the newly incorporated organization was Chuck Huber.  Jam House was located at 48 Charlotte St. now the location is a part of the Best Wester Bayfront Hotel.

According to Chuck:

“When I came on board in ’73 Jam House was an unlicensed “alternative” drug free meeting place for young local people to gather, talk, play music, cards, chess, etc. — with a volunteer vetted by the Exec. Dir. to insure no sex or drugs on the premises. At that time the “Jesus People” and many other hippies, yippees, boat people, et al migrated to/through St. Augustine, and they provided a new challenge, as no County or State services were available.

After I moved to Jam House Inc., our cooperation (with the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office) continued, including outreach to Hastings/Spuds, Ponte Vedra, Crescent Beach, and a couple other areas when a Deputy and I would hold community drug education meetings. We (Jam House) also instituted an in-jail counseling program, run by my then-wife, now Maureen Welch, and a prisoner release program on-site at 48 Charlotte St.”

Chuck also noted: The name “Jam House Inc.” came about before Maureen and I arrived in St. A on Palm Sunday 1971 — Patti Torcolletti, one of the principal founders, told me they had brainstormed for a name that would not trigger any unconscious negative reactions, and simply made-up Jam House Inc.

The 1st Board of Directors of this new non-profit were Coleman Zuber – President, Dr. Jay Wilson – Vice-President, Roger Coffee – Secretary, Walter Ellerton – Treasurer, James Conzemius, James DeVito, M.D., David Redding, William Schlicht, PhD, Thomas Scott, Sharon Kalb.

Happening in 1973:

  • Richard Nixon was President
  • Crocodile Rock was the #1 Song.
  • The Godfather won the Oscar for Best Picture
  • DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) was created
  • All in the Family was the top-rated television show.
EPIC 1974

According to Chuck Huber, Executive Director of Jam House: 

During my two years, I wrote the Grant Applications for federal funding, contingent on raising state and county matching funds, obtained the funds, obtained the Certificate, and we were soon staffed with trained volunteers, providing 24/7 Suicide and Mental Health telephone and on-site counseling and referrals.  Also, free community prepared and shared meals a couple time a week, and “alternatives” nightly with ethical hypnotists, mental health specialists, psychiatrists, meditators, and psychologists available. “

Jam House also participated in the first Florida workshop on “Working Definition of Prevention” – the start of a larger understanding of the importance of prevention when talking about substance use and “professionalizing” prevention work.

Happening in 1974:

  • Richard Nixon was President until his resignation on Aug. 8, 1974, and Gerald Ford became President.
  • The Way We Were was the #1 Song.
  • The Sting won the Oscar for Best Picture
  • All in the Family was the top-rated television show.
  • The 55 MPH speed limit was imposed to preserve gas usage US wide.
50daysofEPIC 1975

According to Chuck Huber, Executive Director of Jam House:

During this period, we attracted the attention of, and cooperated with, the National Drug Abuse Center in the development of the now classic Assessment Interviewing for Treatment Planning (AITP), and after I spent a couple weeks planning in D.C. provided one of the field tests.  I’ve highlighted Jam House’s participation in page 2 and 3 of the included, below — unfortunately we are referenced as “Jacksonville”!

Happening in 1975:

  • Gerald Ford was President.
  • Love will Keep Us Together was the #1 Song.
  • The Godfather, Part II won the Oscar for Best Picture
  • All in the Family was the top-rated television show.
  • The first videotapes/VHS were introduced.

Jam House get a new Executive Director in 1976

Ms. Berlin Jones came on board as the new Executive Director.  Jam House continued with its current services and began branching out into more prevention activities.

Nationally, interesting things were happening in the world of substance use.  After a White Paper on Drug Abuse, the Federal program to control drug abuse gained new momentum.  An important briefing with President Ford was held in April of 1976 to discuss the drug abuse problem facing the nation.

Additionally, the marijuana war began in earnest with the Coast Guard becoming the lead agency for maritime drug interdiction which was very impact to Florida.

Happening in 1976:

  • Jimmy Carter became President in 1976
  • Silly Love Songs was the #1 Song.
  • One Few over the Cuckoo’s Nest won the Oscar for Best Picture
  • Happy Days was the top-rated television show.
  • NASA’s Viking 1 Lander was the 1st American spacecraft to land on Mars.

Jam House continued to offer outpatient counseling and groups as well as more community education.

Nationally, in 1977, President Carter established the President’s Commission on Mental Health by Executive Order #11973.  He charged the commission with reviewing the nation’s mental health needs and making recommendations to the president on how to best meet those needs.  There had never been a presidential commission that dealt with the mental health system.

The US Dept. of Justice sponsored a national survey on drug abuse and the findings were published in 1977.  Youth, young adults, and older people were surveyed.

Happening in 1977:

  • Jimmy Carter was President
  • Tonight’s the Night (Gonna be Alright) was the #1 Song.
  • Rocky won the Oscar for Best Picture
  • Laverne and Shirley was the top-rated television show.
  • The movie Star Wars premiered.

A New name and location for Jam House in 1978

New Address:  58 Spanish St.

Due to the increase in drug use prevention work being done, Board members began having discussions around a name change and during 1978, Jam House was changed to Drug Education and Prevention Center (DEPC) to more clearly explain services and a focus on drug use prevention activities.

Prevention activities in 1978 included conducting educational groups at schools to teach communication skills, promote healthy decision making, and strengthen personal values.  Additionally, groups were offered for parents to help improve communication between themselves and their children.

A fun and exciting project that began in 1978 was the Peer Counseling Program.  Students from Ketterlinus Junior High School were trained by DEPC as Peer Counselors.  Peer Counselors played a role in helping students new to the school acclimate to a new environment.

Happening in 1978

  • Jimmy Carter was President.
  • Shadow Dancing was the #1 Song.
  • Annie Hall won the Oscar for Best Picture
  • Laverne and Shirley was the top-rated television show.
  • The very first “Garfield” comic strip was published.

In 1979, Executive Director Berlin Jones went on a sabbatical and staff person Skip Forsyth was the acting Executive Director in her absence.  After her sabbatical, Ms. Jones decided to move on from DEPC and Skip became the permanent Executive Director.

Skip recalls Joan DeWitt joining DEPC as the secretary and she would go on to work at DEPC/EPIC for over 25 years!  Skip says that when paydays fell on a Friday, Joan would say “it’s a Hoopy, Happy Friday” which all the staff got a kick out of.

DEPC helped junior and high school students find summer work with local businesses during the summer of 1979 in a program called “Rent-A-Teen”.  Jobs included yard work, babysitting, car washing, housecleaning, chopping, office work, and running errands.  The idea behind the program was to keep young people busy earning money during summer vacation.  This program continued for several years.

Also in 1979, DEPC sponsored a new Youth Diversion Program which was designed to counsel troubled youth in order to break a cycle of unlawful behavior.  Youth in the program met with law enforcement, the assistant state attorney, and an intake counselor.  They also visited the county jail and saw a courtroom in session.

DEPC was starting to make a transition for direct services like outpatient counseling and groups to do more prevention work.  This is in part due to HRS (Health & Rehabilitation Services – the precursor to today’s Department of Children and Families), a funder, was happy with what DEPC was doing in prevention and offered more funding for those services.

Happening in 1979:

  • Jimmy Carter was President.
  • My Sharona was the #1 Song.
  • The Deer hunter won the Oscar for Best Picture
  • 60 minutes was the top-rated television show.
  • The game Trivial Pursuit was launched.

DEPC hosted a five-hour “workathon” designed to clean and beautify 2 streets in St. Augustine.  It was also a fundraiser as the volunteers got pledges of hourly donation for their efforts.  Twenty young people and 6 adults participated, and they raised close to $1,200 for DEPC programs.

Nationally, the Mental Health Systems Act of 1980 was signed by President Carter.  This Act provides grants to community mental health centers.  This legislation was considered landmark legislation in mental health care policy.

Happening in 1980:

  • Jimmy Carter was President but then Ronald Reagan was elected President in the November election.
  • Call Me was the #1 Song.
  • Kramer vs. Kramer won the Oscar for Best Picture.
  • Dallas was the top-rated television show.
  • The US defeated the Soviet Union in ice hockey in what was labeled the “Miracle on ice”.

DEPC sponsored a two day “New Games” training seminar followed by a “New Games” Festival.  The training helped participants learn to structure games and recreational activities and was for those that worked with people, especially youth.  The philosophy was a precursor to team-building/trust building games.  The festival offered new and old games.

In a variation of the original Youth Diversion Project, DEPC offered classes on the juvenile justice system, drug use prevention, and life skills development for youth under the age of 18 who showed a high risk for drug and alcohol use or involvement in the juvenile justice system.

Happening in 1981:

  • Ronald Reagan was President
  • Bette Davis Eyes was the #1 Song
  • Ordinary People won the Oscar for Best Picture
  • Dallas was the top-rated television show.
  • The popular film “Raiders of the Lost Ark” made its debut.

DEPC hosted the 1st celebration in the area of a “Drug Abuse Prevention Week” with the theme of “We Can Make a Difference”.  Activities included five days of performances by the Covenant Players, two days of talks to 5th & 6th graders, public presentations, and poster/slogan contests.  DEPC had many community partners in putting on this event including Families in Action, Flagler Hospital, St. Augustine General Hospital, the Kiwanis Club of St. Augustine, the Rotary Club of St. Augustine, Barnett Bank, VAW of America, and the community instruction services division of St. Augustine Technical Center.

On Oct. 14, 1982, President Reagan declared the “War on Drugs” and stated that illicit drugs were a threat to U.S. National Security.

Happening in 1982:

  • Ronald Reagan was President
  • Physical was the #1 Song
  • Chariots of Fire won the Oscar for Best Picture
  • 60 Minutes was the top-rated television show.
  • The first episode of Late Night with David Letterman made its debut.

According to Skip Forsyth, in 1983 DEPC ‘scrounged up’ enough funding to buy a Radio Shack TSRA Model II computer.  The cost at the time was around $3,450 and it came with the screen, keyboard, and 5.5” floppy disk.

Using the new computer system, DEPC was able to develop a Drug Use and Behavioral Actions survey (so that they could compare drug use and behaviors) and local middle schools (and some high schools) allowed the survey to be given to students.  DEPC then shared the results with the principals.  DEPC did the survey for a few years until the schools decided to opt out.

Happening in 1983:

  • Ronald Reagan was President.
  • Every Breath You Take was the #1 Song.
  • Gandhi won the Oscar for Best Picture.
  • Dallas was the top-rated television show.
  • The first mobile phones were introduced to the public by Motorola Company.

US Senator Lawton Chiles (known as ‘Walkin’ Lawton’) paid a visit to DEPC to learn more about the drug and alcohol prevention activities DEPC was doing in the community.

While the “Just Say No” slogan was created in the early 1980’s by an advertising firm, it first emerged in 1984 with First Lady Nancy Reagan was visiting an elementary school in California when she was asked by a schoolgirl what to do if she was offered drugs by her peers and the First Lady responded, “Just Say No”.  Soon the phrase became more common including in popular American culture.

Happening in 1984:

  • Ronald Reagan was President.
  • When Doves Cry was the #1 Song.
  • Terms of Endearment won the Oscar for Best Picture
  • Dynasty was the top-rated television show.
  • The original Apple Macintosh personal computer went on sale.