NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — In order to help combat the area’s growing need for mental health support professionals, Heartland Community College officials have added a certificate program.

The District 540 Board of Trustees has approved the adoption of a seven credit-hour Peer Recovery Support Specialist micro certificate program. The new certificate programs will allow students to advance into the workplace directly from Heartland, according to a press release.

The program is being developed in collaboration with Chestnut Health Systems in response to a projected need for certification programs in substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health.

Job growth is promising as Illinois is one of several states working to establish guidelines for education and certification.

“This Peer Recovery Support Specialist program of study is another example of how Heartland is looking to meet the workforce needs of our community with short-term certification programs,” said Dr. Rick Pearce, Heartland Community College Provost and VP of Academic Affairs. “This will be the first certified peer recovery support program offered at a college or university in Illinois. Students who earn this certification will have the skills to become a vital part of the area’s mental health support system.”

Through a combination of experience and professional training, students will learn how to facilitate recovery, build resilience of persons in recovery, and construct criteria to guide ethical decision-making.

Upon completion, students will demonstrate competency in mentoring and education, professional responsibility, advocacy domain, and recovery/wellness skills.  

The first cohort of the program will focus on substance abuse recovery. Subsequent cohorts will be trained in substance abuse, behavioral health, and mental health support.

Heartland is aiming to begin the program in the Spring 2021 semester.

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