About Us

Chief Executive Officer

Grace Fricks

Grace Fricks is the Chief Executive Officer of ACG who spent most of her early career supporting people with disability in long-term institutional settings to fully integrate into communities of their choice. She was a founder and the first coordinator of the Georgia Unlock the Waiting List Campaign, a coalition of disability organizations with the mission to reduce or eliminate waiting lists for thousands of Georgians with disability who need home and community-based services. She has her MBA from the University of Memphis and in 1997 founded Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE), a lending non-profit that currently serves 68 Georgia counties including the Atlanta metro area. ACE has made more than $23 million in loans and created or retained more than 3,500 jobs.

Larry Fricks

Larry Fricks is ACG Director. For 13 years he served as Georgia’s Director of the Office of Consumer Relations and Recovery in the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addictive Diseases. A founder of the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network and Georgia’s Peer Specialist Training and Certification, he has a journalism degree from the University of Georgia and has won numerous journalism awards. He is a recipient of the American Association for World Health Award and the Lifetime Achievement Voice Award from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for the development and adoption of multiple innovative, community recovery-oriented programs and services. Larry’s recovery story and life’s work to support the recovery of others was published by HarperCollins in the New York Time’s best-selling book Strong at the Broken Places by Richard M. Cohen.

Director of Training

Ike Powell

Ike Powell is the Director of Training of ACG. He has 50 years experience helping people get in touch with the mystery, depth and greatness of their lives. The first 25 years were spent in community development working with the poorest of the poor in India, Egypt, Kenya, Sudan, and urban slums and rural pockets of poverty in the USA. During the last 25 years, he has developed strength-based, person-centered recovery curriculum in the mental health field. He has degrees in Psychology from Duke University and Religion and Personality from Emory University Candler School of Theology and graduate work in Pastoral Counseling from Columbia Theological Seminary.

Director of Operations

Candace Thomas

Candace Thomas is ACG Director of Operations with a lifetime mission of supporting social justice issues, mental illness, and addiction. She also works as Executive Assistant to Grace Fricks, founder and CEO of Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE).

Senior Trainer

Jean Dukarski

Jean Dukarski is an ACG Senior Trainer who has trained more than 800 Peer Support Specialists in Michigan and served as a Program Director for the Justice in Mental Health Organization (JIMHO). JIMHO is the state’s oldest peer-run center providing services to more than 1,200 individuals a year including the operation of a nine bed short-term emergency shelter, a four bed transitional house and a nine bed apartment subsidized housing project. She has also provided technical assistance for the development and sustainability of other non-profit peer-run organizations throughout Michigan as Associate Director of Project Doors.

The Appalachian Consulting Group (ACG) and its training of a peer specialist workforce nationwide evolved from Georgia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities pioneering Medicaid-billable peer support services in 1999 in partnership with the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network.