New Winners’ Circle in Bloomington; Replicating the Model Nationally

(Chicago) — On November 6, a new Winners’ Circle will begin in Bloomington, IL. Winners’ Circles are peer-led support groups for people in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction and who also have been on probation or incarcerated.

The trauma of incarceration, stigma of a criminal record, and associated collateral consequences (such as barriers to housing and employment) create specials needs and challenges for formerly incarcerated people who are in recovery. Winners’ Circles help address these unique needs by offering safe, positive, non-judgmental places where participants can develop healthy lifestyles and share support, encouragement, and success with others at similar places in their lives. Related groups, called Inner Circles, provide this same support to individuals who are incarcerated.

“The goal of the Winners’ Circle is to fill a void as people reenter their communities after they’ve been incarcerated,” said Millicent Lewis McCoy, director of corrections transition programs at TASC. “Winners’ Circles help participants build a strong network to support them in living a substance- and crime-free life.”

The Bloomington Winners’ Circle will meet on Tuesdays 5PM to 6PM, beginning November 6. Sessions will be held at the Family Community Resource Center, 509 W. Washington St., Bloomington, IL. Family members and friends are welcome.

A Nationally Replicated Model of Peer Support

Originally established in Connecticut in 1988, the Winners’ Circle model has since been replicated in several states. Each Winners’ Circle is designed to be independent and self-sustaining. In Illinois, TASC helps guide the development of Winners’ Circles by providing training for Winners’ Circle leaders, and by working with community partners to establish locations for meetings.

While facilitating the growth of Winners’ Circles in Illinois, TASC also provides information and training to support their development in other states.

In June, justice stakeholders from Columbus, IN, came to Chicago to meet with TASC to learn more about Winners’ Circles. Rob Gaskill, director of residential services for Bartholomew (IN) County Jail, county jail staff, and graduates of the county’s women’s reentry program—WRAP (Women Recovering with A Purpose)—observed both Winners’ Circle and Inner Circle meetings. Inspired by what they learned and observed, they are now creating a Winners’ Circle in their community.

“It’s gratifying to see Winners’ Circle spread to many communities,” said Toy Beasley, recovery support coordinator at TASC. “These groups provide support, hope, and healing that people might not be able to get elsewhere in their lives.

“When people have lost hope, Winners’ Circle can help them find it.”

To find out more about Winners’ Circles in Illinois, please contact Toy Beasley at or 309-868-0681, or at TASC’s toll-free number: 855-827-2444.

To learn about training opportunities for Winners’ Circle facilitators outside of Illinois, contact Phillip Barbour, TASC master trainer.

Left to right: Jessica Olson, WRAP; Leslie Harden, WRAP; Angela Smith, Bartholomew County Community Corrections; Maria Sandoval, WRAP; Bethany Peetz, Bartholomew Community Corrections; Deborah Shannon, WRAP; Geri Lynne Cooper, Winners’ Circle Illinois; Rob Gaskill, Bartholomew County Community Corrections




Highlights from Celebrations of Recovery Month 2014 in Illinois

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of National Recovery Month, communities and organizations across Illinois have hosted various events to celebrate recovery from mental health and substance use disorders. Over the past two Saturdays, TASC was engaged in events in Chicago, Rockford, and University Park.

Pictured left to right, back row: Derrick Watson, Rev. Tommie Johnson Middle row: Mike Seeler, Alicia Fiestamel, Debra Hammer, Miki Hendricks, Angela Daniels Front row:  Peter Palanca; Benneth Lee

TASC staff at the September 20 Walk for Recovery at Governors State University in University Park, Illinois.  From left to right, back row: Derrick Watson, Rev. Tommie Johnson.  Middle row: Michael Seeler, Alicia Feistamel, Debra Hammer, Micki Hendricks, Angela Daniels.  Front row: Peter Palanca; Benneth Lee.

On September 20, the Governors State University (GSU) Addiction Studies Alumni Club hosted its third annual Walk for Recovery in University Park, drawing more than 250 people. Led by TASC Executive Vice President Peter Palanca as Master of Ceremonies, the event honored individuals in recovery as well as treatment providers dedicated to helping those seeking recovery. In the spirit of this year’s Recovery Month theme — Join the Voices for Recovery: Speak Up, Reach Out! — event speakers also encouraged citizens to continue to speak up on behalf of those in need of services.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than 23 million people over the age of 12 needed treatment for a substance use problem in 2009. Of these, fewer than three million received it at a specialty facility, making the role of organizations like TASC vital for many.

“We know that investing in recovery makes sense,” said Palanca. “When people with alcohol and drug problems get the help and support that they need, we see positive results.”

Palanca, who has served as Master of Ceremonies at the previous GSU Recovery Walks, added that the importance of recovery should be recognized year-round.

“Let’s not stop celebrating recovery as September comes to a close,” said Palanca. “Recovering people and their families are engaging in recovery each and every day with our continued support, guidance, and service.”

People in recovery, family members, community leaders, service providers, and recovery advocates celebrated at the sixth annual Recovery Rally on the Rock, held September 20 in Rockford.

People in recovery, family members, community leaders, service providers, and recovery advocates celebrated at the sixth annual Recovery Rally on the Rock, held September 20 in Rockford.

Also on September 20, the sixth annual Recovery Rally on the Rock took place on the banks of the Rock River. With inspirational speakers, entertainment, prizes, and refreshments, the event celebrates recovery and raises awareness of local resources to prevent and treat substance use and mental health conditions.

The Reverend Tommie Johnson, recovery support services coordinator for TASC, led the annual Winner’s Circle “Outside the Walls” event, which took place Saturday, September 13 in Chicago’s Douglas Park. “Outside the Walls” is a celebration of hope and healing in the spirit of recovery, promoting reconnected families broken by incarceration. The event offered a spiritual atmosphere emphasizing the importance of faith-based consciousness in productive reentry, and featured local gospel artists, food, family activities, and ongoing encouragement for health and wellness.

The keynote inspirational speaker at the September 13 “Outside the Walls” event was Reverend E.F. Ledbetter III, who is the pastor of the historic Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in the South Side of Chicago.

The keynote inspirational speaker at the September 13 “Outside the Walls” event was Reverend E.F. Ledbetter III, who is the pastor of the historic Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in the South Side of Chicago.

“For those engaged in the struggle to get their lives back on track, with all the obstacles they must overcome, it is good to have a moment that they are celebrated and not just tolerated,” said Johnson. “Everyone, no matter who they are, can use some encouragement from time to time.”

National Recovery Month spreads the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, that prevention works, treatment is effective, and that people can and do recover. TASC is a National Recovery Month planning partner.

September is Recovery Month: Join the Voices for Recovery

September is National Recovery Month, a time to collectively promote and support recovery from mental and substance use disorders, to celebrate people and families in recovery, and to laud the contributions of treatment and service providers.

TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities) invites you to join us at one of the following Recovery Month events, or find other events near you in communities across the country.

Saturday, Sept. 8, 11AM- 4PM:  Outside the Walls: A Day of Family Unity and Community Reconciliation

  • Sponsored by the Winners’ Circle, this is a day of family unity and community reconciliation featuring Gospel Music (Hope House Men’s Choir, Serenity Drum Corps, First Holy Choir, New Mt. Moriah Choir, and many more); inspirational and motivational speeches by religious and civic leaders; gift bags with CDs, books, tapes, faith-based inspiration and more; school supplies for children; commemorative t-shirts; HIV/AIDS screenings and testing, and more.

Wed-Thu, Sept. 12-13:  Illinois Specialty Courts Conference

  • The Illinois Association of Drug Court Professionals (IADCP) and Mental Health Court Association of Illinois (MHCAI) have traditionally held two separate annual conferences. These associations are merging their annual conferences for 2012.

Saturday, Sept. 15, 11AM- 3PM:  Recovery Rally on the Rock

  • The 4th Annual Recovery on the Rock event will highlight and celebrate recovery efforts taking place throughout the Rockford area. The event will feature speakers, informational resources, and community festivities for an informative and fun afternoon.

Saturday, Sept. 22, 8AM- 1PM:  Governors State University Addiction Studies Alumni Club Walk for Recovery

  • Governor State University’s Walk for Recovery will honor individuals recovering and seeking recovery, and will also celebrate the treatment and support providers committed to helping people and families affected by addiction.

Click here to see all September Recovery Month events in Illinois.  If you or someone you know needs help finding or sustaining recovery, please click here for information and links to resources.

National Recovery Month is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).