In-Home Recovery Support Specialist at Trilogy, Charles Mack, received the Vollendorf Peer Leadership Award on Friday June 2nd in a ceremony at the Thompson Center. The ceremony was part of the 2017 Nothing About Us Without Us Recovery Conference.
The Vollendorf Peer Leadership Award was instituted in honor of Carol Vollendorf, a Recovery Support Specialist and mental health activist who worked in the field for nearly two decades before her death in 2007. The award seeks to honor her memory by recognizing persons, who like Carol, provide exemplary inspiration, service, and empowerment to their peers. Every year, individuals who are currently in their own process of recovery from mental illness or co-occurring challenges nominate candidates for the award who they see as heroes. Charles says the news of his nomination came as a “total surprise,” and that now he feels “honored to be the recipient of this award, instilling its meaning to fellow peers.”
Charles started at Trilogy in the Fall of 2015 and brought years of experience working in community mental health with him. Prior to joining Trilogy, he worked at the Lake County Health Department as a case manager for clients of the Williams Consent Decree, which enabled qualifying individuals with mental illness to be moved from state-funded facilities into communities where they can live independently with professional support. He now continues this work at Trilogy, engaging with clients representing varying levels of need. Charles sees skill-building as a central component of his work, teaching clients how to lead more independent lives inside and outside their home environment. This can include teaching them to utilize basic home appliances, access resources in their community, using public transportation. Charles isn’t only tasked with helping clients adapt to their new community, he also helps them encompass a holistic perspective as they build skills based on their personal strengths. He says “I help my peers embrace all aspects of life, including housing, employment, education, mental health and healthcare treatment and Substance Abuse services, spirituality, creativity, social networks, community participation, and family supports as determined by the peer themselves.”
Since winning his award, Charles has received a number of emails from organizations throughout Chicagoland interested in learning more about the In-Home Recovery Support Model (IHRS). The correspondence comes from mental health organizations, hospitals, social service agencies, and others who are increasingly recognizing the importance of addressing the mental health of their clients, especially those with dual diagnosis. To them IHRS offers the possibility of engaging clients in a client-centered manner, which promotes independence and improved quality of life in several aspects of their life.
Charles has been happy to share his experience and successes with these organizations, and derives motivation from the success he sees in his own clients at Trilogy. He is currently preparing to obtain credentials as a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor so that he may start counseling individuals who are struggling with substance use as well as mental health recovery. In his current work with these vulnerable populations, seeing their growth and development inspires his own. Next year, Charles will pass on the award of Vollendorf Peer Leader onto a new recipient at the 2018 conference, but he is sure to continue to inspire and empower his peers in mental health.