Mark Honzel, a primary counselor for Rosecrance, works with uniformed service personnel — firefighters, paramedics, law enforcement officers, military, etc. — on the Florian unit. Mark provides case management and counseling, reviews client insurance, runs individual and group sessions, and helps facilitate and arrange aftercare for clients when they leave treatment.
Mark studied Law Enforcement Administration and received a Bachelor’s of Science from Western Illinois University in 1992 and spent the next 21 years as a sworn officer with the Rockford Police Department where he was a K9 handler, field training officer, housing authority officer, and a patrol officer. Mark retired in 2014.
Because of his own personal experiences Mark took up a second career in counseling to pay it forward to those in need of assistance. Mark received his Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in 2018 from Argosy University in Schaumburg. He completed his Master’s internship with the Florian Program and has been with Rosecrance since.
“I can really understand what our clients go through because I have been through the exact same thing myself. They can talk about past traumas and while all are unique, I’ve been through my own so I get it… As first responders, we often think we don’t need help and we are supposed to take care of ourselves. The way I address that with clients is letting them know the treatment team is their specialized back up. I remind them ‘You ask for back up all the time on the job. You ask for mutual aid. It’s the same thing here in treatment. You are saying I am dealing with something I am not an expert in and I need an expert to come in and help me with it.’”
He adds, “Watching clients come into treatment they are overcome with grief and tears, sadness and anxiety. Then, watching them walk out 30 days later with their head held high and with a sense of hope and purpose…It’s very satisfying. And I know that I don’t do any of that; that’s them doing the hard work; that’s God working through me to help them.”
Erica Gilmore, Rosecrance Unit Coordinator, MSED, CADC, LCPC
January 4, 2018
Erica Gilmore is the unit coordinator of the Women’s Services and Florian programs at Rosecrance. She manages the day to day operations on both units, develops treatment programs and schedules, researches and implements the best evidence-based practices to address the populations in those respective programs, and provides staff with clinical supervision. Erica has been with Rosecrance for 3 years and in the position of unit coordinator for 2 years.
“I believe we all get in this field because we want to help people,” she says. “There is nothing more rewarding than putting in a lot effort in and seeing the effects, seeing the potential in somebody who doesn’t necessarily see it in themselves and seeing their hope grow and develop and blossom inside them.”
Erica received her Bachelor’s degree from Augustana College and her Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Western Illinois University. Prior to working at Rosecrance her professional background ranges from working as a unit tech for adolescents in the criminal justice system to an addiction counselor for the Center of Alcohol and Drug Services in the Quad Cities. Additionally, Erica spent time working with the Department of Child and Family Services and jail-based systems in Iowa.
She explains that her primary passion has always been helping those experiencing substance use disorders and the most rewarding part of her job is the work she does on the Florian unit. The Florian unit tailors mental health and addiction treatment to the specific needs of uniformed service personnel — firefighters, paramedics, law enforcement officers, military, etc.
“When I first started working on the Florian unit I never really thought about first responders and the things they go through and the stress they have,” she admits. “We tend to think about them when we need them, but we don’t always consider what they sacrifice and what they are willing to do for other people. They sacrifice their lives to protect the community and it’s really rewarding to help the people that help us and think about the people that don’t always get thought about.”
Beginning as an intern for Rosecrance 11 years ago, Amy has since transitioned through several positions from Floor Nurse to Nurse Manager and then Healthcare Provider. Amy now serves as the Director of Nursing at Rosecrance where she splits her time between providing healthcare directly to clients and overseeing nurses at all Rosecrance Inc. locations. Amy explains that as Director of Nursing she tries her best to empower other nurses, help them achieve their own goals and provide education on the magnitude of behavioral health nursing.
“Behavioral health clients are simply everywhere,” she says. “It’s such an important concept throughout the whole spectrum of nursing and I want to encourage new nurses to consider behavioral health nursing as an option. I want them to realize the skills we use are so varied, so very important and understand it really is a very rewarding profession.”
However, even though Amy’s lead responsibility is supervising the team of nurses and ensuring they have the knowledge and information they need to provide the best possible care to Rosecrance clients, her primary passion is still direct client care.
“The most rewarding part of my job is in those moments where a client can truly smile at me,” she explains. “There was a woman who I worked with for 2 years in outpatient services. She would come to my office and just curl in on herself. It was clear she wanted to make herself small and invisible. She didn’t have good self-confidence at time and was feeling very depressed. I recently got to transition her out of my care and on her last visit I saw a very confident young woman sitting in my office with her head high, chin up, smiling. It was a really a great moment. To me success in what I do looks like clients achieving their goals.”
She adds “The most challenging part is knowing that there are limits to what we do. We can only go so far and the rest of it is up to client. Of course our natural instinct is to help as much as we can, more so and more so every time, so knowing that limit is difficult.”
Amy received her Associate’s degree from Rock Valley College in 2009, her Bachelor’s degree from Northern Illinois University in 2011, her Master’s degree in Family Nurse Practice in 2015, and her Post-Master’s degree in Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practice in 2017.
When asked what it’s like to witness the transformation in clients she cares for, she explains: “There’s nothing I can describe it with. I birthed a child and to me watching the clients grow is almost as rewarding. Being able to see them reach their goals and witness the hard work they put into their recovery is incredible.”
“Recovery is hard work,” she adds. “It takes dedication every single day whether it is recovering from mental health concerns or substance use concerns and it is truly life-changing. The courage and bravery it takes cannot be understated. For me, witnessing recovery is one of the miracles of life.”
“A lot of clients have commented on how this is the first treatment center they’ve been to that focuses on opiates. The heroin epidemic is kind of taking over now. Our opiate-specific unit is used as intervention specifically tailored toward the treatment of opiate addiction,” he said.
“The most challenging thing about my job is hearing about people relapsing after they leave here, or even worse, hearing about people who didn’t make it. I lost one of my best friends in 2009 because of this. It’s hard. You have to give yourself time to grieve. It definitely reminds me how bad this epidemic is. But there are also so many examples of people who have so much stacked against them, and you think there’s no chance they’re going to make it… and they do.
“[Recovery] is different for everyone. Bill Wilson, who’s the founder of AA, said that there are multiple pathways to recovery. There are different contributing factors for everyone. For some people, it’s like, ‘If I could just get my depression under control, I could stay sober.’ Some people say, ‘If I could just get out of this abusive relationship, I would be sober,’ and maybe that is the answer for them. ‘If I could just get my PTSD under control, I could get sober,’ and they do.
“There was a client who was able to stay sober for 6 years, and he worked in construction. The only time he was able to stay sober was when he was employed the whole time. The minute he stopped working, he had too much time on his hands and relapsed. We know that whatever those underlying problems are, those need to influence how that person gets treated and how they stay sober.
“Everyone has a different formula. Rosecrance does a great job at not using the ‘cookie-cutter’ approach and instead provides individualized treatment that addresses the varying needs of clients.”
Karly Bergstrom is a Unit Specialist at Rosecrance Griffin Williamson Campus and has been with the organization for 9 months. She is passionate about helping teens develop coping skills for the mental health disorders they face. Rosecrance recently expanded specialized programming for adolescents with mental health disorders, which can include mood disorders, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicidal behaviors, and more. Karly sees first-hand how these illnesses can affect the mind and body. “If there is a client who’s struggling due to a rough phone call or family session, I’ll pull them off the unit and we’ll take a walk or do something to help them cope. I try to get them to open up and figure out the root of the problem, why it causes so much anxiety, and how we can move forward.” Karly works with other staff members to create an individualized plan for clients who need extra accommodations that may differ from the standard schedule for the day. Whether it be an extra walk through the Healing Garden or five minutes alone in their room listening to music, Karly ensures that each client’s unique needs are taken into consideration.
“I have a passion for people for whom I feel like society has turned the other way. I want to help the underdogs. I love being able to fight the stigma associated with substance abuse and mental health that keeps so many people from seeking help.”
Sandra Knezevic has been with Rosecrance since December 2015. Before working at Rosecrance, she was an intern with TASC at the Cook County jail, providing case management services.
“I run a specialty empowerment group that helps our girls work on their self-esteem. I’m very proud of that group. They’re learning how to challenge some of their negative core beliefs and how to replace those with some more positive ones. I think most of our girls struggle with low self-esteem, which is why it’s such an important group for our clients. You’ll have kids who won’t even make eye contact in group because they fear judgment, and then by the end of their stay here they’ll be leading the group.
“I think a lot of our kids don’t have an adult in their lives who is a positive role model. I have the opportunity here to really influence someone and help them see their own worth. When they come to a realization that they are worth something… that’s huge.
“I always use the metaphor of going to Home Depot and buying all these tools… then you have to go and build a house. When you’re in treatment, you’re getting the tools, these coping skills, to fill your tool belt… but it’s not until you leave that you get the chance to apply those skills to build your recovery and sobriety. The hard work comes after they leave,” Sandra said.
“Even though it’s still pretty early in my career, I feel that I do a pretty good job of having a strict line between my personal life and my work life. What makes it easier is that I have coworkers with whom I can process my own feelings. They are there to support me and they are willing to have those difficult conversations. Self-care is a big thing.
“One of the most impressive things to me as a new staff person was how welcoming everybody was. The culture in this building… there was a lot of welcoming, a lot of ‘How can I help?’ There’s a little bit of a sense of family on C-Wing, where I work.
“I have a client who’s currently in our recovery home at Marlowe. She was one of my first clients when I came to work here; she was 10 to 11 months sober and had a little relapse. She reached out, and we got her into the Marlowe Recovery House. She just graduated high school. This is a client who doesn’t have any family support. Her mom and dad suffer from mental illness, she has six siblings who all abuse drugs. She’s come very close to dying several times – car accidents, overdoses, and hospitalizations. It’s incredible to see her still want recovery, despite not having anything to lean back on. Even someone with such a sad, sad story can still make it.
“Currently I have a client who has finally gotten the courage to confront her mom and dad on past trauma; she felt that her parents didn’t protect her. I encourage clients to find their voice, and to feel safe enough with me to be able to have these difficult conversations that they’ve avoided for years. I think sometimes people minimize what these clients have gone through. Their feelings and stories matter, and what happened to them was a big deal.”
Gail Raney is Administrator of Rosecrance Central Illinois and has a master’s degree in public administration. She started working for Prairie Center in 2002, which merged into Rosecrance in January 2018.
“I consider myself fortunate to have worked with so many people who are doing all they can to make a positive impact on other people’s lives. These wonderful people are always striving to keep improving. They never give up when tackling a problem, no matter how large it may appear. Being a part of such a terrific team drives me to be the best I can be,” says Raney.
Raney is inspired not only by the staff that she oversees, but also the clients we serve.
“I have been blessed to have worked with fantastic professionals over the years, but it’s our clients who motivate me the most. In our field, we are trying to help people make huge changes in their lives. I am always inspired when I witness the effort they put forth as they work towards sustaining their recovery. I have seen people who ‘had it all’ then lost everything—their job, home, family—and they came to us feeling very broken. To see them healthy and full of hope is so inspiring.“
Peter Mowris, Family Program Coordinator for Rosecrance Harrison Campus, works with families of adult clients in residential treatment for substance use disorders. “I spend more time with the families of clients than any other staff member. I get to see the issue from both sides.”
Peter has a Ph.D. and taught across the country before coming to Rosecrance. His work on the young men’s residential unit and the traditional men’s unit ignited in him an inner passion for the Rosecrance mission, which continues to grow in his current position. “I’m really glad I worked on the men’s unit, because it gave me a lot of contact with clients. That’s really helpful when talking with families, who are genuinely curious to know what the treatment experience is like.”
Regarding the family program, Peter sees tremendous value in giving families a chance to have their voice heard. “I never lose sight of the fact that most families are talking about this issue openly for the first time with people outside their family. We provide a safe space for them to do that, and it’s powerful.”
Peter also runs groups for clients in treatment, to help them learn how to make amends with their families. “They all want their families to trust them again. If it’s their first time in treatment, they have this idea that they can figure this all out by the end of the month… but recovery is a lifelong process.”
Abby Nelson has been with Rosecrance for 14 years and works as the Recreation Specialist at the Griffin Williamson Campus. She got her degree in exercise physiology and coached high school varsity basketball before coming to Rosecrance. “When you coach at a varsity level, it’s very matter-of-fact: you’re there to win,” says Nelson. “My approach was a little bit stricter, and when I came to Rosecrance, I had to loosen those reins. I had to be in touch with different situations, stories and circumstances rather than just being focused on completing the task.”
The adolescent clients at Griffin Williamson Campus use the fitness center three days a week and participate in recreation twice a week. Typically during “rec,” they play games such as basketball, kickball or volleyball.
“These kids’ bodies are in terrible condition. They haven’t done a good job of taking care of themselves in terms of their physical health, so they need to rebuild that. I think one of the biggest misconceptions about our department is that it is just playtime for the kids. These moments when they are relaxed are when we can make the biggest impact. As an organization, I think we’ve gotten a lot better at being intentional with those moments.”
Abby Nelson talks about the importance of recreation in the recovery process:
“A big part of participating in experiential therapies (art, recreation, drumming circles) is having fun. If you’re not having fun and enjoying life when you’re sober, you’re not going to stick with your recovery. We need to find something that these kids connect with. We also know they need repetition to learn things, so we cram in as much recovery knowledge and practice as we can get. It’s a lot easier to practice those recovery skills in a game. When we talk about assertively communicating, or holding each other accountable, it’s a little bit easier to get practice at that skill when they’re in rec. Sometimes they let their guard down when they’re playing games and they don’t even realize that they’re practicing those skills.”
“We process after every activity that we do. Playing a game is great, but taking it to the next step and getting that deeper meaning are what we do in therapeutic rec. We have them talk about how they will apply that skill in other areas of life.”
From her 14 years of experience working with the teen clients at Rosecrance, Abby is confident of this:
“Recovery works. If people are willing to make a change, it works. It looks a little bit different on everybody. Just because a kid is in treatment doesn’t mean that they are mess-ups or that they aren’t capable of healing or becoming productive members of society.”
Angie Heuerman is a nurse in the Detox Unit in the residential addiction treatment center for adults at the Rosecrance Harrison Campus. She is responsible for the care of the clients, administering medication and assessments.
“We try to keep a positive outlook with these clients, because sometimes we see them multiple times. It would be possible to fall into the pattern of, ‘Oh, they’re back again.’ That doesn’t help them, or you. We have to assess the current situation and have a fresh, positive attitude.”
Angie has worked for Rosecrance for almost ten years. She received her bachelor’s degree in nursing and is currently working to obtain her doctorate degree to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner.
“The people here are awesome. If you have a bad day, you’re going to have a hard time finding someone that won’t open their door and talk with you. It’s a great team.
“Working in detox, we get the brunt of it when clients are angry or sad. So we work with them through that, but we also have to make an effort to check up on the clients as they move on to inpatient so that you can see them in recovery.”
Angie explained that, more than any other unit at the Harrison Campus, detox sees a lot of turnover. In one or two days after clients are finished detoxing, they either leave or move on to inpatient treatment.
“There was this client in detox who had long hair, dark circles under his eyes. Two weeks later, he came through and said hello to me, but I didn’t recognize him at first. He had gotten a haircut, put on 5 or 10 pounds, and was wearing nice clothes instead of scrubs.”
The physical change that recovery can have on a person is sometimes pretty dramatic. One client who came through the detox unit was at his lowest point, and remembered the impact that Angie’s words had in his recovery journey:
“I did have a client approach me at the grocery store,” Angie said. “He remembered me from when he was in treatment 7 years ago. He had been clean ever since he went through detox and inpatient services. He was someone whom I had seen three or four times in the detox unit, but now he is married, has two kids, went back to school and graduated. We’ve been able to become friends now, and he’s doing wonderfully.”