Scattergood Foundation

Advancing Innovative Strategies for Change in Behavioral Health

Sacred Creations

Name of Innovative Program: 
Ready for Change
Sponsoring Organization
Sacred Creations
Name of Innovative Program Lead: 
AJ French, CRSS
E-mail Address of Innovative Program Lead:
Physical Address of Innovative Program: 
2735 E. Broadway, Ste. B, Alton, IL 62002
Project Description: 

The primary objective of Ready for Change is to positively change the culture of the human service delivery system by integrating Certified Recovery Support Specialist (CRSS) professionals in fields other than mental health.  Doing so will maximize opportunity for persons with mental health conditions to have their needs met and experience optimal wellness, regardless of setting. 


To accomplish this goal, we have identified a route with three ports which will take us to our destination of meaningful internship opportunities leading to systemic solutions for individuals living with mental health conditions.  First, we will facilitate a series of educational webinars about cultural competency regarding mental health recovery which are customized for diverse populations.  Second, we will host an in-person workshop about developing sustainable CRSS Internships.  This workshop will be for all persons who have participated in one of the aforementioned webinars.  Third, we will post CRSS education and employment opportunities to our website for public viewing.


Sacred Creations is uniquely position for this, as we are identified in the Illinois Statewide Plan for Independent Living (federally mandated plan) as the Lead Organization to “Increase the availability of recovery support specialists at community hospitals, mental health providers and the criminal justice system.”

Creativity and Innovation: 

Ready for Change exhibits originality and ingenuity by taking an effective proven method of Recovery Support (aka peer support) and saturating populations other than mental health with living proof that it is possible to recover from mental health and other life challenges.  All too frequently, individuals who are in the “helping people” business lack adequate education and experience to support an individual struggling with mental health challenges.  All too frequently professionals attribute the word “recovery” to addictions reflecting their service array is not recovery-oriented.  Furthermore, clergy members receive little, if any, mental health education despite the fact that persons experiencing a psychiatric crisis often seek support from their faith leaders before seeking mental health support.  Sacred Creations is ready to share insight and information that can only be acquired through lived experience to new frontiers that are desperately in need of cultural competency regarding mental health. 


Ready for Change will be successful due to integrity of our relationships and the willingness to continue establishing solid relationships.  If we are awarded money to increase cultural competency among systems partners, we will specifically designate a coordinator to heavily invest in outreach among state government, provider agencies, advisory councils and diverse faith groups to engage sustained systemic change.  These one-to-one conversations are among our most powerful tools when building conversations that raise awareness and increases public dialog about mental health.  People tend to share more authentically in one-to-one conversation and these dialogs are critical to our success .  We care deeply about the relationships we have with community partners and how that impacts individuals with mental health needs.  For us, this is more than a project, it is a about cultivating healthy communities by equipping as many people as possible with the unique expertise of a Recovery Support Specialist.  


Ready for Change has an overwhelming amount of support from the State of Illinois.  The Illinois Certification Board (ICB) maintains the CRSS credential which is supported by the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), Division of Mental Health (DMH).  DMH offers substantial recovery education hours required to obtain and maintain the CRSS credential at no cost to individuals.  This includes regional mental health conferences, monthly statewide conference calls and more.  The ICB also offers scholarships for their annual conference which is held in both Northern and Southern Illinois.  Additionally, the ICB has a limited amount of Olmstead funds to assist individuals who have limited finances with CRSS exam expenses. DMH provides a monthly technical assistance call to Recovery Support Specialists and their Supervisors to help interns, employees and employers navigate some of the complexities of this emerging field.  Please see attached letters of support from stakeholders with a vested interest.   


Ready for Change takes the existing statewide infrastructure for CRSS workforce development and introduces this successful model to new populations.  Because the supervised work hours can be acquired by volunteering as a Recovery Support Specialist in a program that offers services in the domains of the credential (advocacy, recovery support, mentoring and professional responsibility), supervised internships are mutually beneficial to the individual and organization.  For the individual, they can acquire the required supervised work hours necessary to earn the credential and then seek paid employment.  For the organization, they will benefit from having a volunteer Recovery Support Specialist as part of their service array for a one year period.  Because every state in the nation has an existing peer support certification or credential, Illinois will become a role-model to other states seeking to integrate professionals with lived recovery experience as part of the overall service delivery team.


Ready for change will conduct pre and post surveys for each webinar and for our in-person event.  These surveys will measure the amount of knowledge that participants have about mental health recovery and the CRSS credential, as well as attitudes about what persons with mental health conditions.  Six months following the in-person training, we will also contact training participants to evaluate the initial implementation of CRSS.  We will interview Interns, Supervisors and a select group of individuals benefiting from Recovery Support Services who voluntarily agree to participate in our evaluation.  We will follow up with DMH to draw a comparison between Internships that are launched as a result of Ready for Change and Internships that were launched in the mental health field that will be included in our final report.  These results will be made available to the Scattergood Foundation, the Kennedy Forum, DMH and participating entities.

Nomination Tags: 
Cost Savings
Integration of Behavioral Health and Physical Health