Find Orlando Family Magazine on Facebook! Follow Orlando Family Magazine on Twitter! Orlando Family Magazine RSS Feed

Impacting Change

Local nonprofit Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health is saving the lives of at-risk youth in our community and beyond…

Ask any individual what the most important thing in life is to them, and the word family will always come up on top. Societies have risen, fallen, and grown in immeasurable ways, but family has never lost its significance. This widely held conviction is an important one, because family can be a force that enables its members to experience the unconditional love and support that is needed for a thriving, happy life.
Unfortunately, families can also be deeply flawed, or fail to exist entirely in the lives of many. The lack of love and care can be devastating for many, but especially for those in their formative years. Children, adolescents and young adults whom are unlucky enough to experience these difficulties are often faced with especially trying circumstances. What’s worse—they are left vulnerable to the outside world and trapped inside an environment that might negatively impact their future.

Thankfully, there are dedicated nonprofits that acknowledge a growing need to service those who are struggling both independently and within family settings, and Greater Orlando is lucky enough to have one of the very best in our own backyard.

Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health was founded by a woman who was dedicated to helping at-risk youth overcome their struggles and realize their potential in life.

“As a young school teacher, our founder Ms. Helena Devereux, began a historic journey driven by a vision and passion for a better way to help children in need,” says Lindsey Phillips, director of external affairs.

“She started with one child who struggled in a traditional education environment and applied an individualized plan, which resulted in notable progress. From there, she worked with many individuals with a range of disabilities and began the development of a broad continuum of services. Ms. Devereux forever changed the course of special education and treatment for individuals with learning, behavioral and emotional difficulties.”

What began as a humble desire to better the lives of others has now grown into a network of trusted and proven programs that have saved, and continue to save, the lives of many. Today, Phillips is one of the individuals that is committed to continuing the positive impact of this organization.

“Every step of my career path has prepared me for how I am serving the individuals in our care now and I could not be more proud of the meaningful work provided by our team of compassionate and dedicated professionals,” says Phillips.

When it comes to helping the Central Florida community, Devereux has an impressive track record, to say the least. One of the biggest issues to plague our community in recent times is sexual exploitation, and thankfully, Devereux has had boots on the ground from the beginning.

“Devereux works in collaboration with the Department of Children and Families, Orange County government, statewide and local human trafficking task forces, law enforcement and other provider organizations to combat this growing epidemic in Central Florida,” she says. “The collaboration that developed has led to a positive and lasting impact in the community. To date, our team has worked with hundreds of youth survivors of human trafficking throughout the state and are now serving adult survivors in Orange County.”

In addition to curbing and preventing sexual exploitation, Devereux also keeps the line open and the light on for anyone battling mental health related issues. They partner with Heart of Florida United Way, Orange County emergency services and Florida Hospital to provide their own Mobile Crisis Service for anyone who needs it. This hotline is available every hour of the day, and can be utilized by dialing 2-1-1.

“The intention of this program is to offer intensive support in the natural environment for families that require a brief intervention, to stabilize the situation and get back on track,” she says. “Children and adolescents receiving this service are less likely to be arrested, placed in a psychiatric hospital or removed from their home.”

One such individual’s experiences with Devereux came after her parents sent her to Florida for better opportunity. Jesse M. began acting out, and her extended family was unable to deal with her behavior. She ran away from home and eventually, they relinquished parental rights.

“I sought comfort from ‘boyfriends’ who pressured me into making a living on the streets,” says Jesse M. “At the time I didn’t believe it, but I later realized [that I] was a victim of commercial sexual exploitation.”

Jesse was placed in Devereux’s Intensive Residential Treatment Center at the age of 17, and worked steadily to overcome many challenges.

“I behaved aggressively towards peers and was uncooperative with therapists … but after attending several therapy sessions, I gradually began opening up and took part in my customized treatment plan. They helped me address the trauma and loss in my past, helped me mature and taught me how to manage my emotions.”

In addition, Jesse completed her high school education and found the courage to pursue a college degree. Looking back now, she acknowledges that Devereux was responsible for giving her a much needed chance.

“I tried other programs and therapists before coming to Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Florida—all were unsuccessful,” she says.

“Now I know how important it is to have a loving family and make good friends who are a positive influence. Devereux really helped me.”

Another young adult, Ashley, came to Devereux after many years of suffering from a lack of acceptance and no support system.

“I was forced to be a person I knew I wasn’t,” says Ashley. “So, I acted out, ran away and was suicidal. I was rejected by 10 organizations for life-saving psychiatric residential care because I am transgender. Then, I heard [about] this place called Devereux.”

Once Ashley learned that Devereux would accept her, she was hopeful for the future for the first time in her life.

“I was battling emotional, mental and physical challenges, and [Devereux] provided me with intensive counseling services and support. I am no longer aggressive or think about suicide. The Devereux team’s affirmation of my female expression has been the best part of the program. They let me be who I am. For the first time in my life, I was able to be myself.”

The lives of these two young women and many others would be far grimmer if it weren’t for Devereux’s life-saving services and commitment to acceptance, and it’s plain to see that their role in our community is an extremely important one. The future is guaranteed to bring more trials and future obstacles, but Devereux is dedicated to facing them head-on.

“The need for a variety of mental health and substance abuse services are continuing to grow in our community,” says Phillips.

“A priority program for Devereux Florida is the provision of specialized services for survivors of sexual exploitation—including residential treatment, outpatient counseling, specialized foster care and community-based prevention and training. With your help, Devereux can continue to provide a safe, nurturing and therapeutic environment for survivors to receive help.”

This article originally appeared in Orlando Family Magazine’s January 2018 issue.

Leave A Comment