'Embracing Hope' Seminar Will Target Mental Health


Local  organizers are planning a seminar targeting mental health and addiction recovery, "Embracing Hope," set for Saturday, Feb. 3, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Calvary Baptist Church in Hillsboro.

The event will feature panel discussions, booths, and speakers with both local and national expertise.

Registration for the event will be available online at the beginning of January via an event website and on Eventbrite, or by calling Linda Liebscher, one of the event organizers, at 618-210-0313 or emailing leendachambers@yahoo.com.

The seminar is the work of a committee that includes representatives from HSHS St. Francis Hospital, Graham Correctional Center, the Elizabeth Ann Seton Program, as well as several local pastors.  

Their goal is to gather the community together to share about mental health and addiction recovery in a meaningful way that will perhaps be a foundation for a long-term mental health ministry.

Keynote speakers at Embracing Hope will be AJ French, president and chief executive officer at Gift of Voice in Alton, and Nanette Larson, deputy director/ambassador for wellness and recovery for the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Division of Mental Health.

A 2016 state employee of the year award winner, Larson is a nationally recognized leader in the mental health recovery movement and has provided numerous presentations to diverse audiences on recovery, spirituality and related topics with a message of hope.  In her more than 15 years as a state employee, she has served in a variety of positions in IDHS, and as ambassador, forwards the division of mental health's successful recovery initiatives such as Wellness Recovery Action Planning (WRAP) and Certified Recovery Support Specialist (CRSS) training and development.

French is not only winner of the 2015 Hero Award from Thresholds Psychiatric Rehabilitation Centers, the 2014 Life Unlimited Award from Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, the 2013 Susan Kniffle Award from the Metro East Leadership Council, the 2012 Advocate of the Year for LINC Center for Independent Living, and the 2011 Presenter of the Year from NAMI Illinois, she also draws from personal experiences of homelessness, hopelessness, hallucinations and hospitalizations, as well as her professional expertise.  She has testified before the Illinois General Assembly and been invited to the White House.  In 2015, she was invited to meet with the U.S. Surgeon General for an interfaith discussion on mental health.

In addition to Larson and French, Marcia Liebscher will be speaking on factors contributing to wellness, and Pastor Jeff Hemken of Calvary Baptist Church in Hillsboro will speak on mental health recovery of family members.  Also speaking will be Brent Miller, diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 1998 and in recovery since 2001, and Lori Bergbower, Correctional Counselor II at Graham Correctional Center in Hillsboro and coordinator for the Addiction Recovery and Reentry Summit Program.

Panel discussions will feature those who work in the mental health field, caregivers and those who have battled mental health issues and are willing to answer tough questions.


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