CIRC participants display certificates received for completing Cognitive Enhancement Therapy (CET) alongside JEVS staff.  At far left is Tuere Rogers, CIRC recovery educator and CET mentor.  Next to her are participants Corey, Jen, David and Karim.  At right is Alberta Green, CIRC recovery educator.

When Karim H. was released from prison, he went through the motions of what many formerly incarcerated individuals go through. Assigned to program after program, Karim found that each one was focused on the bare minimum of keeping participants out of prison, as opposed to teaching them how to thrive at their second chance.

“I was a little depressed when I first started because prior programs taught things that I didn’t need,” Karim said.

Karim was also dealing with mental health struggles that were rarely, if at all addressed during these workshops. That’s when he found the Community Integrated Recovery Center (CIRC), a program offered by JEVS Human Services.

“When I came to CIRC, it was more about helping me find employment, furthering my education and setting goals for my future,” Karim said. “They have given me direction and lots of support, whether it’s mental health, relationship building or education. It’s a really strong foundation and they keep me on the ball.”

CIRC assists individuals who have a serious mental illness by teaching them important life skills and helping them set goals. The program offers services including group therapy, life skills training, volunteer work, resume building and job hunting among many other facets. CIRC also extends outpatient services with master-level clinicians and psychiatrists. The most important part of CIRC, however, is that they operate in honor of choice.

“CIRC will go the extra mile to help you achieve your goals.”

“We are here to help them achieve whatever goals they identify that they want to work on,” Jacqui Stabler, Director of CIRC said. “We meet them where they are and we help guide them through their recovery process.”

Stabler spoke about how allowing participants to decide what they need and want is a reflection of the shifting societal views on mental health. Before 2007, CIRC operated as a partial hospital that focused on treating immediate symptoms and keeping participants out of the general hospital. When CIRC transformed into a psychiatric rehabilitation center, the focus was much more on what the participant wanted for their future. This was an unimaginable change for the many participants who were previously institutionalized in infamously inhumane hospitals such as the Philadelphia State Hospital at Byberry.

“A lot of them didn’t grow up making choices for themselves,” Stabler said. “So for them, it’s about breaking through those barriers and helping them understand you have a choice, you have a say over what happens to you. We are about realizing that people do have hopes and dreams, that there is more than just being able to stay out of the hospital.”

An annual CIRC picnic is held each September.

Tuere Rogers, a recovery educator at CIRC, spoke about working with participants and helping them learn skills from socialization and stress management, to work ethic and independent living. She also works with Karim and spoke about how rewarding it is to simply help him and others realize the potential they have.

“For me, it’s about participants actually accomplishing their goals and living the life that they want to live,” Rogers said.

Karim can attest to this as he spoke about CIRC staff including Rogers as if they were his family. The recovery plans that CIRC creates with the participants are all about creating small every day goals and building them towards a life that participants want and are eager to work for. For Karim, the goal is to eventually study poetry, film and music.

“I would tell someone who was in my situation and thinking about coming to CIRC that you have to give it a chance,” Karim said. “CIRC is one of those programs that will go the extra mile to help you achieve your goals. They remind you that just because you have an illness or there is a stigma, you’re not stuck where you are. There’s always room for improvement. That’s the hope they give.”


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