USF Joliet’s recovery support program gets state $1.14 million grant

Student applications for the fall 2024 cohort are due Aug. 2

Mathematics students from the University of St. Francis will have the chance to team up with their peers from Dominican University to participate in a unique learning opportunity as part of the Mathematical Association of America’s Preparation for Industrial Careers in Mathematics program.

The University of St. Francis in Joliet received $1.14 million in state grant funding from the Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Mental Health for its certified recovery support specialist program.

The program trains people to use their lived experiences in recovery from mental health and/or substance use to help provide recovery services to others, USF said in a news release. The grant funding will provide free tuition for accepted students through June 2025.

Patricia Ferdon, teaching instructor and internship coordinator, said in the release that students who successfully complete the CRSS program find gainful employment in “substance use treatment, community mental health, and other non-profit settings.”

“Training experience both in the classroom and the field practicum prepares students to share their lived experience in a way that promotes hope and change in those they serve, advocates for diverse and marginalized populations, assists in increased access to care/treatment, and reduces stigma around mental health, substance use, and co-occurring disorders,” Ferdon said.

USF’s CRSS program launched in fall 2022 with an initial cohort of 19 students, according to the release. The program will welcome two new cohorts for the 2024-25 academic year – up to 20 students each in fall 2024 and spring 2025, according to the release.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for someone who would like to get into a profession and get a college education,” said Marcia Van Natta, CRSS project director and instructor previously.

Van Natta is a retired clinical case manager of the problem solving courts at the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office. She also facilitated the problem solving courts’ family programming and alumni groups.

Van Natta helped with the management of Will County Sober Living Homes. She presented substance use disorders workshops for the Joliet Police Department, Illinois Department of Corrections, Joliet Junior College, Will County’s problem solving courts and the Illinois Certification Board, where she is past president and past recording secretary.

University of St. Francis professor, Marcia Van Natta, poses for a photo on Wednesday, June 28th, 2023 in Joliet.

For more information on the CRSS program and to apply for fall registration, visit or contact Van Natta at or 815-740-3779.

Student applications for the fall 2024 cohort are due Aug. 2. Applications received after this date will be added to a wait list for the spring 2025 semester.