CARES Academy

The CARES Academy is held four times each calendar year, typically in the metro Atlanta area. Each Academy includes 40 hours of in-class training (Monday through Friday, 8:30am – 5:00pm), as well as pre-Academy assignments, and assignments made during the training week. 

The week is a blend of informal lectures and interactive workshops, with a focus on developing skills such as Motivational Interviewing that enable CARES to provide quality peer recovery support services. 
Upon successful completion of the Academy, participants are awarded a certificate identifying them as Certified Addiction Recovery Empowerment Specialists, and upon successful completion of the CARES exam, CARES working in eligible facilities are able to bill Medicaid for Certified Peer Specialist–Addictive Disease services. Admission to the Academy is generally very competitive. 
CARES Academy 39
April 13-17
Applications due March 2, 2020 at 4pm.

We will be accepting applications for CARES 39 beginning on 2/3/2020 ending 3/2/2020.

Applying to CARES

The only requirements to apply for the CARES Academy are two years abstinent recovery, and high school diploma or GED. Acceptance into the CARES Academy, which is competitive, is based on the successful completion of the process outlined below.​
The CARES/ROSC Workshop is an excellent opportunity for potential CARES to learn more about peer recovery support services, and how they fit into a Recovery-Oriented System of Care (and what a recovery oriented system of care is). That understanding not only helps applicants through the application process, it also helps them to better understand if the CARES Academy is something they are ready to pursue.
In addition to information about ROSCs, the workshop provides practical skills in applying for the Academy, including a review of writing samples, and a mock group interview (with feedback from the facilitator). If there is not a CARES/ROSC Workshop on the GCSA calendar, please contact Karen Daniel for more information at

Upcoming Academies

CARES 38 – February 3-7, 2020
Applications due 12/9/2019
CARES 39 – April 13-17, 2020
Applications due 3/2/2020
CARES 40 – July 13-17, 2020
Applications due 6/1/2020
CARES 41 – August 24-28, 2020
Applications due 7/20/2020
CARES 42 – October 19-23, 2020
Applications due 9/7/2020
Connect North GA. March 20, 2020
Registration end Monday March 16 @ 4:00 pm or when full capacity is reached
Register HERE.
Connect Metro ATL August 14, 2020
Connect South GA November 6, 2020
There are three core components to the CARES application process: 
A written submission, phone references, and an in-person group interview.

The Application Process

Writing Samples

The written submission, which applicants submit online, includes biographical information (education, employer, etc), and requires three basic components:


A writing sample (250-500 words) provided by the applicant.


Two reference letters (250-500 words each) provided by people with direct knowledge of the applicant’s life in recovery, and who can provide examples of how the applicant exhibits the values of CARES.

One of the references must identify as being a person in long term recovery and that references must not be family members.


The writing sample and reference letters should make explicit reference to how the applicant demonstrates the CARES Values in life. These values include Hope, Wellness, Diversity, Recovery, Integrity, and Commitment


About The Writing Sample


Many of us are taught the value of humility in our recovery programs, and we honor that. However, this writing sample is not the place for it! Please use this opportunity to talk about your accomplishments in recovery so that we can better understand how you will be able to serve your peers in recovery.


Each writing sample and references are scored by a team of GCSA staff and CARES alumni, who are looking for the CARES values, as well as demonstrated leadership (ideally but not necessarily in the recovery community); dependability; ability to use recovery story to help others; and the support of the many pathways to recovery.


​We recommend that you visit the application website at the bottom of this page prior to beginning your application there, so you can have all of the required information ready to submit. Unfortunately, applications cannot be saved, or retrieved once they are submitted.


About The Reference Letters


CARES reference letters are not like traditional references for jobs or application to college. These references should speak directly to the applicant’s recovery and leadership through examples. We believe that everyone in recovery has the potential to become a CARES, but for the CARES Academy, we look for individuals who have evidence of leadership and strong recovery.


Also, the credentials and background of a reference cannot improve the score of the applicant. The focus of the maximum-500-word reference should be the applicant.

Reference Follow-Up

Each person who submits a written reference will be contacted by phone, typically no later than 10 business days after the application deadline. Applicants should be certain:


The phone number provided for each reference is one where the reference can be reached for a 5 minute phone call at some point during a typical workday (8:00am-5:00pm Monday through Friday).


The reference understands that it is very difficult (nearly mathematically impossible) for an applicant to advance to the next stage in the admission process (the interview) without successful phone references


In order to be objective and unbiased in our selection, CARES does not accept references from family members, relatives or from a spouse.

Group Interview

When phone references are completed, the applicants with the highest combined scores from the written submissions and phone references are invited to participate in a group interview. Notifications of whether or not an applicant has been invited to participate in the interview are typically sent within 10 business days of the application deadline. Please make certain you have included as a “safe sender” in your email. To learn how to “whitelist” in your email software, please click here. Instructions on how to register for an interview slot are included in the email sent to invited applicants, and are offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. All interviews are scheduled on a single workday, typically between 10am and 2pm. Applicants who are not able to attend the interview are encouraged to re-apply for the next CARES Academy.  


The interview is an opportunity for GCSA to get to know the applicants, and for the applicants to demonstrate how they might incorporate the values, mission, and vision of CARES into their interactions with peers in recovery.


The group interview is very structured in its format, to ensure that each applicant has the same amount of time and opportunity to share in the group. Typically there are three GCSA staff members and eight applicants in each group interview. Applicants are scored on their ability to use their recovery story, including the CARES values.


For many people, the group interview format is very new, and a little foreign, so we encourage applicants whenever possible to attend a CARES/ROSC Workshop, where a mock group interview is held, with questions similar to those asked in the real group interview. Participants of the CARES/ROSC workshop tend to be more successful on their first application to the CARES Academy.

Examples of CARES Values

Examples of a CARES Value: Wellness


Stronger: I am in daily contact with my recovery community, I go to the gym four times a week, and participate in my faith community at least once a week.


Good: I chair meetings in my home group.


Needs Work: I take really good care of myself.


Examples of a CARES Value: Diversity


Stronger: Jamie founded an inter-faith soup kitchen that builds relationships within our faith community.


Good: Jamie volunteers at the prison and the PTA.


Needs Work: Jamie works well with diverse groups of people.


Examples of a CARES Value: Integrity


Stronger: Jamie can always be relied on to complete any task she is given, to the best of her ability, and on time.


Good: Jamie can be trusted with anything.


Needs Work: Jamie is a very honest person with lots of integrity.

Application Review

A committee including the GCSA staff and CARES alumni involved in the application process meet to review the final scores, discuss the outcomes, and build consensus to assemble the roster of the next CARES Academy. This meeting typically happens within three business days of the interviews.


All applicants will receive email notification of the final decision. Those who are selected to attend the next Academy will be asked to confirm that they still wish to attend. If anyone is unable to attend, that spot in the Academy will be passed on to the next applicant. Applicants who are not selected to attend the next Academy are encouraged to call and receive feedback on their application and reapply for the next Academy. It is not unusual for applicants to apply two or more times before being accepted, and the number of times someone applies to the Academy does not positively or negatively impact their ability to be accepted into the program.