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New Certificate Program Addresses Need for Peer Recovery Specialists

Submitted by on September 8, 2021 – 4:37 pm

June Savageau, CEO of the North East Independent Living Program, is partnering with the college to offer a program to provide training for peer recovery specialists.

Haverhill and Lawrence, MA (September 14, 2021) Northern Essex Community College and the Northeast Independent Living Program (NILP) of Lawrence and Lowell are partnering on a new certificate program that will prepare individuals who are in sustained recovery from mental illness, addiction, and trauma for careers as peer recovery specialists. The college is accepting applications now for the program, which will begin in January of 2022.

Using their own personal lived experience, peer recovery specialists, are trained to help others who are in early recovery. Hospitals, correctional facilities, schools, residential programs and more employ peer recovery specialists and they work with all ages from children to seniors.

“There’s an upwards of 15% job vacancy rates at many non-profit agencies serving our communities with people with disabilities.” says June Sauvageau, CEO of Northeast Independent Living Program and a member of the college’s Human Services Advisory Board. “This program will provide an academic gateway for people with lived experience and also help us address the challenge of finding qualified people to fill these important roles in our organizations.”

The 16-credit program will cover the addiction-recovery cycle, 12-step and other self-help recovery organizations, community resources, working with diverse populations, engagement with clients, relapse prevention techniques, coping skills training, and how to navigate the health care system. The program includes a 150-hour practicum placement with a local agency.

Credits earned can be transferred to the Alcohol and Drug Counselor Certificate or Human Services Associate Degree at Northern Essex or to a four-year bachelor’s degree program.

“When students complete this program, they will be prepared to work professionally with those needing assistance with recovery or accessing resources,” says Brian MacKenna-Rice, NECC human services program coordinator. “There’s a great need for people with these skills. Just about any agency that deals with people with disabilities has peer support positions.”

Northern Essex offers an Associate Degree in Human Services as well as certificates in alcohol/drug abuse counseling, children’s behavioral health specialistcommunity support human services practitioner, and direct support.

The Northeast Independent Living Program Inc. is the only Independent Living Center in Massachusetts with a Dept. of Mental Health funded Recovery Learning Community. The Northeast Recovery Learning Community (NERLC) is a peer-to-peer support community comprised of survivors of mental health diagnoses, traumas, and addictions. NERLC supports individuals on their journey to obtaining and maintaining wellness in the community and promotes the reality of recovery for all. Services are free to the community.

To learn more, contact Brian MacKenna-Rice at

Northern Essex Community College has campuses in both Haverhill and Lawrence. It offers approximately 60 associate degree and certificate programs as well as hundreds of noncredit courses designed for personal enrichment and career growth.  Each year, 6,000 students are enrolled in credit associate degree and certificate programs on the Haverhill and Lawrence campuses; and another 2,000 take noncredit workforce development and community education classes on campus, and at businesses and community sites across the Merrimack Valley.  For more information, visit the website at or call 978-556-3700.