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The Workforce Development Program (Formerly RSS Program)


The Institute was funded in 2004, by the Community Partnership of Southern Arizona (CPSA) who contracted with the University of Arizona (UA), Recovery thru Integration, Support & Empowerment (RISE.) to develop a curriculum to train individuals to provide peer support services. RISE called the students Recovery Support Specialists (RSS). Since then, over 600 individuals living with serious mental health and/or substance use concerns have been trained to work with their peers in achieving their stated goals of employment. We are now called the Workforce Development Program.

Here are some questions that are often asked:

What is an RSS and what does a RSS do?
A Recovery Support Specialist (RSS) is a person trained to provide services to peers in the behavioral health system. RSSs provide a variety of services, including peer support, facilitating group sessions, helping other members to access community resources, making hospital visits, and many other duties as defined in their job description.

RSS is the title we use in southern Arizona for peer support. An RSS might be called a Peer Providers, Peer Specialists, or Recovery Coach. RSSs have become a valuable part of the behavioral health system in Pima County, nationally and internationally.

In surveys conducted by CPSA, Provider staff indicated that Recovery Support Specialists have good clinical knowledge and are effective in helping members navigate the CPSA system of care. Because they have similar life experiences, RSSs make good role models for individuals recovering from serious mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders.

In addition to helping others, RSS Institute graduates have talked about the many benefits they get out of the RSS Institute, including gaining knowledge, skills, inspiring attitudes, employment, professional growth, and enhancing their own recovery and quality of life.

What is the RSS Institute and what am I expected to do?
Each Institute lasts seven days, not consecutively (See Schedule for days, times and places). Each day begins at 8:00 and goes until 4:00. In addition to the daily sessions, there are homework assignments. Because the days are long, a continental breakfast and lunch, and afternoon snack are provided. The classroom sessions include lecture, discussion, small group work, audiovisual materials, reading aloud, writing and role playing. Participation from each person is expected.

What employment opportunities do I have after becoming a RSS?
On day 7 agencies are invited to provide Employment Tables. Graduates meet behavioral health representatives and discuss RSS positions at their organizations. CODAC Behavioral Health Services, COPE Community Services, La Frontera Arizona, Compass Health Care, HOPE, Marana Health Care, Camp Wellness, Café 54, and Crisis Response Center (CRC) are some of the agencies that are represented.

While some behavioral health organizations may have specific positions called Recovery Support Specialists, RSS is a certification not a job title. RSSs have taken a wide range of jobs, including Community Education Specialist, Coordinator of Special Populations, Program Director, Resident Manager, Behavioral Health Technician, Recovery Coach, etc.

What are Practicums?
Practicums are for people who are employed and delivering peer support services. Practicums are weekly two-hour meetings to discuss challenges and successes in the workplace; to continue developing knowledge and skills, and to discuss how to take care of your own recovery and wellness as an employee. Graduates must complete a minimum of eight practicum sessions to meet CPSA requirements. See Schedule for days, times and places.

What are Pre-practicums?
Pre-practicums are for people may or may not have a job. They provide support for those who are in a new position and need assistance with boundaries, documentation, Group Facilitation and Integrated Healthcare. For those who have not yet found employment and need encouragement this class alone with Resume and Interviewing skills will assist in getting a job. Pre-practicums are weekly, two hours long and are encouraged for students who have taken the first two days of the Institute and need further assistance to move on to days 3 – 7. See Schedule for days, times and places.

If you are interested or would like to learn more, please contact:

Christina Baca, CRSS
Employment Consultant
Workforce Development Program
1450 North Cherry Avenue #203
Tucson AZ  85719
WORK: (520) 626-7473
FAX: (520) 626-7833
CELL: (520) 873-7663
christinabaca [at] email [dot] arizona [dot] edu

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