USF Receives State Grant to Support Certified Recovery Specialist Program

Joliet, Ill. – An Illinois grant that supports the state’s growing need for mental health and substance use recovery support specialists is being awarded to the University of St. Francis (USF). The Illinois Department of Human Services/Division of Mental Health selected USF for a grant of $90,000 to partially fund the Certified Recovery Support Specialist/Certified Peer Recovery Specialist (CRSS/CPRS) program.

“Illinois’ CRSS/CPRS program prepares students for entry-level positions as behavioral health workers, specifically in the areas of substance use and mental health recovery. With programs like this, people who are going through a mental health emergency will be treated by community outreach specialists with lived expertise—people who have been there,” said Elizabeth Davies, dean of the USF College of Arts & Sciences.

“Last year, Gov. Pritzker signed legislation that expanded access to mental health care and that measure included funding for expanded services including an enhanced 988 line. While everyone knows calling 911 will connect people to emergency services, 988 is the new emergency number for behavioral health crisis response. People are needed to assist people who call with substance use and mental health issues,” Davies explained.

The program at USF is one of several programs and certificates designed to educate and train health care staff. Once certified, specialists work in a variety of capacities, such as outpatient drug and alcohol treatment, crisis response teams, sobriety maintenance settings like sober houses, and mental health.

Training is specifically designed for people who have lived experience with mental health and substance use issues.

“The certificate is a one semester program that can be done in full time or part time formats. Students earn certification and 14 college credits that can be used toward a degree program at USF. The tuition for the program is fully funded by the grant, so it’s free to students in the program. Plus, the grant also offers assistance to remove barriers to education for students in the program,” said Larry Dunbar, a professor at USF and the coordinator of the university’s Substance Abuse Counseling Program.

“The program is based in recovery-oriented systems of care, a newer model of treatment for substance use and mental wellness. This model recognizes the value of people with lived experiences in substance use, mental illness, or the legal system in providing support to others going through these challenges. It’s a really exciting field, and the need for recovery support specialists is growing,” Dunbar said.

Students interested in the program can contact the university and find more information online at stfrancis.edu/crss. Enrollment is now open for the USF’s CRSS program, with classes beginning in the Fall of 2022.

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The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 52,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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USF Instructors Elected to ICB Executive Committee of the Board of Directors

Joliet, Ill. – Two members of the University of St. Francis’ Psychology Department have recently been elected to the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the Illinois Certification Board (ICB).

Marcia A. Van Natta, BA, MHS, CADC, CODP II, has been elected President of the Illinois Certification Board (effective July 1, 2020). Van Natta will serve two years as President, followed by two years as Past-President. Formerly, Van Natta served as Recording Secretary of ICB, which is a role she also held with the Illinois Association of Extended Care. She is a clinical case manager, semi-retired from the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office Problem Solving Courts. She is also a facilitator for the Family Programming and Alumni Group of Problem Solving Courts of Will County and teaches about substance use disorders for the Upper Room Crisis Line in Joliet. Van Natta holds a master’s degree from Governors’ State University and certifications as a drug and alcohol counselor and co-occurring disorders professional.  She currently serves as an adjunct professor at USF teaching psychopharmacology and co-occurring disorders in the Substance Abuse Counseling Program of the USF Psychology Department and is an Associate of the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate, Joliet, Ill.

Also, effective July 1, 2020, Lawrence (Larry) A. Dunbar, MS, CAADC, CPS, PCGC, CODP II became the newly elected President-elect of the ICB Executive Committee of the Board of Directors.

Dunbar has worked in the field of behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment, prevention and mental health for more than 25 years. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration (1986) and a master’s degree in Health Service Administration (2000), both from the University of St. Francis, where he currently works as an instructor and Program Coordinator of Addiction Studies. In addition, he also earned a Certificate in Addictions Counseling (1996) from Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, Ill., where he was previously an adjunct instructor. Dunbar had been a member of the ICB Board of Directors for 13 years in the past and is now in his second year of a new six-year term. His ICB service has included terms as President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, and as a member of many committees of the Board. Dunbar will now serve two years as President-Elect, followed by two years as President and finally two years as Past-President.

About the Illinois Certification Board

According to the Illinois Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Professional Certification Association, Inc. website, iaodapca.org, the Illinois Certification Board is a “private, non-profit organization that promotes standards for professionals in the addictions field. ICB shall protect the welfare of the public through improvement of quality health care service being provided to the individual, his/her family, and/ or significant others. ICB does this by writing and publishing standards, evaluating experience and education, reviewing each application for the respective credential, and upgrading those standards. ICB’s professional standards meet or exceed all international standards for practitioners.”

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Currently celebrating 100 years of higher education rooted in Franciscan values, the University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 50,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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Illinois Certification Board Authorizes USF to Offer Combined Mental Health and Substance Abuse Program

Joliet, Ill. – The University of St. Francis (USF) has received Illinois Certification Board authorization to offer a specific program designed to combine both mental health and substance abuse training and education in its Substance Abuse Counseling program. The authorization places USF in select company among its Illinois peers, as only a handful of the state’s colleges and universities offer a similar program.

“Substance use and mental health disorders are often diagnosed together in patients,” said Lawrence Dunbar, USF professor and Substance Abuse Counseling program coordinator.

“Mental illness and substance use both occur on a continuum of severity in people. We see a varied population with ranges from slight or moderate issues to truly severe and profound. Mental illness and substance use both occur on a continuum of severity, and can vary independently and concurrently across individuals, within individuals, across time and between settings,” Dunbar said.

The Illinois Certification Board and the Substance Abuse Counseling program at the University of St. Francis both endorse the concept that the treatment of dually diagnosed substance use and mental health disorders is a specialty field requiring performance by competent professionals, Dunbar explained.

Students that complete the Substance Abuse Counseling degree program at USF, and complete the CADC credential, will have fulfilled the education requirements for the Co-Occurring Substance Use and Mental Health Disorder Professional Level 1 Registration (CODP-1) as credentialed by the Illinois Certification Board.

“It is in the news every day. There is an alarming amount of problematic use of alcohol and other drugs. In many cases there are, in addition, co-occurring mental health problems. Physical problems, difficulty at work, deteriorating relationships, and ultimately, death, dictate that our society provide care and counsel to people where mental illness and substance use coexist,” Dunbar said.

The CODP-1 registration, in addition to the CADC certification, helps prepare students to work in this difficult but growing field. This is a highly valued and requested combination of credentials, education and experience by Illinois behavioral health providers.

“The CODP-1 is a credential combining human services with behavioral science. We will lead and mentor students through at least 21 semester hours of AOD education and 6 semester hours in mental illness education,” Dunbar said.

“The Substance Abuse Counseling program at the USF prepares students to become the professionals that we need to go out into the community and assist others in their rebuilding their lives, creating healthy relationships and putting families back together,” Dunbar added.

For more information on USF’s Substance Abuse Counseling program, visit stfrancis.edu/substance-abuse-counseling.

The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves over 4,000 students nationwide, offering undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 50,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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