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 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.
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