SAMHSA's Tribal Training and Technical Assistance Center

Circles of Care

Circles of Care is a program that supports children with severe emotional disturbances and their families. It is also a grant program for AI/AN communities.

The SAMHSA Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS) administers the Circles of Care program, a three-year discretionary infrastructure grant for American Indian/Alaska Native communities. CMHS awards the grants to:

  • American Indian and Alaska Native tribes
  • Tribal organizations
  • Urban Indian programs
  • Tribal colleges

Supported by SAMHSA leadership, the program began in 1998 as a result of planning with tribal leaders, American Indian and Alaska Native mental health professionals, and advocates. Until the creation of the Native Connections program in 2014, the Circles of Care grant program was the only SAMHSA grant program focused specifically on American Indian and Alaska Native communities without competition from states, counties, or cities.

The Tribal Training and Technical Assistance (TTA) Center uses the Strategic Cultural Framework to guide our work.

Program Goals

The primary goals of the Circles of Care grant program are to:

  • Plan for the development of a community-based system of care model for children with mental health challenges and their families
  • Develop local capacity and infrastructure to assist tribal communities in obtaining funding and resources to implement a system of care model to improve the mental health and wellness of their children, youth, and families

Circles of Care Grantees

Grantees must use Circles of Care grant funds to support:

  • Planning and development of infrastructure
  • Overall systems change
  • Local capacity building to improve mental health, substance abuse prevention and wellness services, and supports for children, youth, and families

Additionally, grantees must:

  • Strongly emphasize cross-system collaboration
  • Include family, youth, and community resources
  • Use culturally relevant approaches

Grantees may not use Circles of Care grant funds to provide direct services.

Specific items required under the Circles of Care program include:

  • Community Needs Assessment
  • Community Readiness Assessment
  • Community Resource/Asset Map
  • Social Marketing/Public Education Plan
  • Process evaluation
  • Local evaluation plan
  • System of Care Model (a “Blueprint”)
  • Implementation Plan, including a feasibility study for the Blueprint
  • Outcome Measurement Plan for the Blueprint

A sample resource for Circles of Care grantees is Planning a System of Care for American Indian and Alaska Native Communities: A Crosswalk, which provides an overview of the Circles of Care program and its process. 

A major contributor to Circles of Care’s success is the high quality of TTA provided to the grantees.  The Tribal TTA Center includes culturally appropriate TTA to help cohorts of Circles of Care grantees meet the goals of the overall program to serve their communities. 

TTAC Coc Cohorts Map


Circles of Care Team

Who to Contact

Don Lyons

Don Lyons

(Leech Lake Band of Ojibway/Mohawk of the Six Nations)
Circles of Care Director

“If we can laugh together, we can work together—and then we can make positive change together.”

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Who to Contact

Joshua Schuyler

Joshua Schuyler

Circles of Care TTA Coordinator

“Working to promote collaboration and increase well-being across American Indian communities.”

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Who to Contact

Tyrone Smith

Tyrone Smith

(Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Oregon)
Circles of Care TTA Coordinator

“We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

– Hopi Elder

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Don Lyons (Director) is an enrolled member of Leech Lake Band of Ojibway in Northern Minnesota, as well as Mohawk of the Six Nations. He has over 15 years of international, domestic, state, and tribal experience related to wellness, prevention, and treatment. He has also worked extensively with the Gathering of Native Americans/Gathering of Alaska Natives curriculum and Community Readiness Model, a cultural-based wellness curriculum and assessment for indigenous communities.



Joshua Schuyler (TTA Coordinator) is an enrolled member of the Oneida Nation of the Thames in Ontario, Canada. Raised in the Detroit metro area, he has worked extensively with the urban Indian community there. His work has focused on cultural competency training and outreach to local organizations to increase awareness about issues in the urban Indian community.



Tyrone Smith (TTA Coordinator) is a member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Oregon. As project director of a Circles of Care project, he coordinated infrastructure development between the local American Indian and Alaska Native community and service providers to enhance the local service delivery system in central Ohio. Passionate about wanting to fight the good fight, he has steadfastly taken on the responsibility of advocating for his American Indian and Alaska Native people’s betterment throughout Indian Country.

SAMHSA Contact

Captain R. Andrew Hunt, M.S.W., L.I.C.S.W.

Center for Mental Health Services/Child, Adolescent, and Family Branch

Public Health Advisor – Circles of Care Project Officer


Last Updated: 04/16/2018