Just after high school, Mendi Baron, the son of a rabbi and the eldest of eleven children, went to live in Israel – the land of milk and honey. His time in Israel was transformative. Though he was only a teen, he demonstrated an ability to listen and offer words of comfort to his friends, many of whom were troubled, lost and at-risk teens. The effect he had on them was powerful. Baron instinctively counseled his friends and helped many of them change their lives in positive ways. On returning to the US, Baron began his freshman year at the University of Maryland, where he earned a BA in psychology and social work with honors, and later a master’s degree in social work.
Today Baron is fully engaged in his life’s mission to help adolescents struggling with addiction and mental health issues. He supports their search for the passion and purpose in their lives, and helps them start down a path to become the complete individuals they were meant to be. A clinically-trained therapist with extensive experience counseling adolescents in various settings and treatment centers, as well as an expert in starting conversations about the critical issues impacting today’s teens, Baron knew he could design and implement a definitive adolescent treatment center.
Not yet thirty, Baron is the founder and CEO of Evolve Treatment Centers, a strength-based, solution-focused program that empowers struggling teens to become the engines for their own recovery. He and educator Gryphon Ward have created and launched six successful adolescent residential and outpatient programs in Southern California.
Evolve is the realization of Baron’s vision. Baron and the Evolve treatment team recognize every adolescent as a wellspring of possibilities. An integral part of teen recovery is facilitating maximum personal potential by helping them identify and harness their passions, set healthy goals and create their own vision of happiness. The program is built on the teens and their discoveries: who they are, what they want to do and where they want to go. In essence, the teen drives the treatment.
Treatment is based on the premise that young people between the ages of 13 and 18 are in a time of flux. It is a time of physical and identity development during which teens can learn to be proactive in making their life choices, setting goals and forming a vision for their future. For youths struggling with addiction or mental health issues, it is crucial to show them how to overcome obstacles and inspire in them a sense of self-worth and purpose. With the appropriate support and direction, Baron believes their lives can be completely turned around.
The team at Evolve believes they have a responsibility to be positive role models for teens, as they assist them in developing a clear set of personal values. Whether in the residential, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient or outpatient treatment programs, the team is committed to equipping teens to evolve successfully on their own terms while maintaining healthy relationships with their families. Success occurs when teens leave the program in harmony with themselves, their families and the world around them.
The Evolve program works. Baron recently received a note from a parent saying, “Thank you for believing in our son and saving our entire family. Know that you will always be the superheroes that came into our lives when we needed you the most.” A teen graduate of the program wrote, “I am so thankful to be where I am today. I couldn’t have done it without the team that you put together for me. When I first got to [Evolve], I was in complete shock. The support you provided immediately put me at ease. With your help, I now have options where I previously had none. I have a great relationship with my family again. I’m in charge of my life, and it feels great! Life is good. I can’t thank you enough for believing in me and showing me I was worth saving.”
Though it is not uncommon for those in recovery to find jobs in treatment centers or non-profit organizations to help others on the path to recovery, this is not Baron’s path. His desire is to be a voice for teens beyond Evolve. Keep an eye on him as he continues his passionate advocacy for teens in trouble.