Starting out his career as a flight surgeon in the United States Navy, Dr. G. Robert Baringer experienced a more harrowing journey into the medical field than most doctors could boast. And though honorable service for one’s country introduces the most exciting, fast-paced, heart-pumping side of the medical field, it was back home in school that the doctor discovered his real passion. His naval service over, Dr. Baringer enrolled at the University of Mississippi Medical School to study psychiatry and explore the treatment of mental health disorders. After three years of specialty training in the field, Dr. Baringer moved to Florida in 1971, where he taught psychiatry at the University of Florida Shands Teaching Hospital.
In 1973, the already illustrious steps of Dr. Baringer brought him to St. Augustine, FL, where a new state mandate required that all Florida counties provide mental health services for their residents. St. Johns, Putnam, and Flagler counties banded together to form a Tri-County health service. “I was asked to come and help with the program,” says Dr. Baringer, “At that time, there weren’t any programs like that. I knew that I could help a lot of people, so I took the job.” So Dr. Baringer became the Medical Director of Tri-County Mental Health Services. Needless to say, serving as Medical Director along with the responsibilities of being a doctor in his own office practice kept him quite busy. After years of service as the Tri-County Medical Director and after ending his office practice, Dr. Baringer began working with EPIC Behavioral Healthcare. This is where his trusted and valued guidance may still be found today as the center’s Medical Director.
EPIC Behavioral Healthcare specializes in helping individuals and families that are dealing with substance abuse, addiction, and mental health disorders. Through counseling and other forms of treatment, EPIC helps people of the community recover from life-gripping disorders. “I’m eighty-two years old, so I’m only partially retired,” laughs Dr. Baringer. “I keep at it. I work mostly in the Detox Program. There’s a lot to be done, a lot of people to help.”
EPIC’s Detox Program is designed to help those suffering from substance abuse. While the program utilizes a combination of medication and therapy to help patients, Dr. Baringer passionately feels that the therapeutic side of the treatment should not be overshadowed by its medicinal counterpart. He explains, “It’s the things lying beneath that are the source of many of these problems, these addictions. You have to get to the core of the situation if you’re going to make changes in your life. That’s where I like to help.”
Dr. Baringer has seen many cases of people battling addictions and substance abuse. However, it’s the rising epidemic of heroin use in the county that truly concerns him. Heroin is highly addictive and drastically affects the lives of its users long after its initial euphoric high has faded away. Not only does it destroy the mind and body of its users, but it also damages the lives of loved ones who are forced to witness its destruction. These are damages that Dr. Baringer works hard to rectify with his patients. “Almost all these people are also dealing with some form of mental illness,” he says. “Substance abuse and mental illness sort of go hand in hand. You can’t treat one without treating the other.”
EPIC Behavioral Healthcare is located at 1400 Old Dixie Highway. Visit them online at www.epicbh.org.
Photography by Brian Miller