University of St. Francis receives grant to support behavioral health efforts

The grant will fully fund tuition for students who want to earn a certification

The University of St. Francis on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017, in Joliet, Ill.

The University of St. Francis in Joliet earned a state grant to support a program aimed at addressing the growing need for mental health and substance use recovery specialists.

The Illinois Department of Human Services selected USF for the $90,000 grant to partially fund the Certified Recovery Support Specialists/Certified Peer Recovery Specialist program, according to a news release. The program prepares students for entry-level positions as behavioral health workers 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,” Elizabeth Davies, dean of the USF College of Arts and Sciences, said in a statement.

USF’s program is one of several 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 and behavioral health.

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 the students in the program, according to the release.

“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,” Larry Dunbar, a USF professor and coordinator of its Substance Abuse Counseling Program, said in a statement. “It’s a really exciting field, and the need for recovery support specialists is growing.”