Vermont Psychiatric Survivors -VPS
…a statewide peer-run organization with a focus on support, education and advocacy…
VPS is located at 1 Scale Avenue, Suite 52 (Building 14), Rutland, VT 05701
Contact the office at: 802-775-6834 Warm Line at: 1-800-564-2106
Vermont Psychiatric Survivors, (VPS) recently celebrated its’ twentieth year of providing and promoting a wide array peer services throughout Vermont. We continue to be a grassroots organization, encouraging and empowering people to take the steps necessary to create a healthier Vermont for all. VPS is a statewide organization whose focus is on advocacy, education, and support. These goals are accomplished through a variety of smaller programs and initiatives that range from our longstanding Counterpoint newspaper to the recent Vermont Peer Leadership Retreat. Please check out this site and feel free to contact us for any reason.
Linda Corey led by empowering others
Nancy Remsen, Free Press Staff Writer7:30 p.m. EDT June 22, 2014
(Photo: NANCY REMSEN/FREE PRESS ) For the past 15 years, Linda Corey has been a force — mostly out of the spotlight — pressuring the state’s mental-health system to seek and listen to the voices of those it was trying to help. In February, 17 mental-health organizations recognized her long dedication “to the movement to empower all people” and “to give a voice to those who have had no voice” with a leadership award. Yet by the end of this month, Corey, 63, will be out of her job as executive director of Vermont Psychiatric Survivors, a nonprofit social-service organization headquartered in Rutland with a $1 million budget, seven full-time staff and two part-timers. Over the weekend Corey was hospitalized and remains a patient late Sunday at Dartmouth- Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H. Her condition was not available. Supporters — and there are many — say Corey’s apparent dismissal is a sad ending to her tenure as head of an organization that has as its mission helping individuals with mental illnesses live in the community with the least amount of assistance. “She is a hard worker — a dedicated, committed hard worker,” said Morgan Brown of Montpelier, a mental-health consumer and watchdog. “She doesn’t deserve this.” Rebekah Low, president of the board of Vermont Psychiatric Survivors, declined to explain anything about Corey’s pending departure, writing in an email, “This is a personnel issue and it would be inappropriate to comment.” At least part of the issue is dissatisfaction with her financial management skills — in particular her management of the organization’s transition to a new accounting system, Corey said. Frank Reed, deputy commissioner of the state Department of Mental Health, shed some light on the organization’s money matters in an email. “DMH does provide funding to the organization. The VPS Board of Directors has a fiduciary obligation to ensure that VPS has sound financial management practices and accountability for all state funds utilized,” Reed wrote. “The Department’s role is to monitor to ensure that such practices and accountability are in place. Although this is a peer-run organization, DMH has no different expectations regarding the granting of funds than it has with any other state-funded entity. The Board of Directors identified areas of concern, which they shared with DMH, and has identified a plan to ensure that their concerns are met.” Still, Reed joined a chorus of mental-health advocates who cited Corey’s role in empowering people with mental illness. Reed’s email stated, “Linda has been a strong advocate and leader of the peer movement in Vermont.”
Who is Linda Corey? Most Vermonters are unlikely to know anything about Corey. “Almost everything she does, she does from behind the scenes,” said Rep. Anne Donahue, R-Northfield. Donahue produces Counterpoint, a periodic newspaper published by Vermont Psychiatric Survivors. Corey, who lives in Fair Haven, grew up in central Vermont, graduated from Rutland High School, married and had a son. Her life path has included serious challenges, but as she tells people she is helping, disappointments are part of life. Corey has a mental illness that has necessitated treatment since childhood. Her son has disabilities and lives at her home. Most life-changing: her spouse’s sudden death. “My husband died from a car falling on him in the yard,” she said, adding that her son witnessed the accident. A counselor suggested she pursue a college degree, she said. She earned a bachelor’s of science degree in therapeutic recreation from Green Mountain College and later a master’s of science in community mental health from Trinity College. She worked at several social-service organizations before landing at Vermont Psychiatric Survivors as a paid employee promoting wellness recovery action planning. “VPS has a mission I was really passionate about,” Corey said: “Finding ways for people to live within the community with the least amount of assistance, teaching them, working with them to find their strengths, exploring things they might want to do.” In addition to the newspaper, Vermont Psychiatric Survivors provides patient representatives to help people who have been hospitalized navigate the health-care system. The organization also sponsors support groups, offers training in wellness recovery action planning, jointly operates a therapeutic home in Randolph and works to acquaint people with recovery options. Two years after joining Vermont Psychiatric Survivors, Corey became executive director: “I was asked to try it.” That was 1999. “As a boss — and it sort of typifies how she does a lot of things — it was hands-off,” Donahue said. Corey became executive director just six months after Donahue was hired as editor of the organization’s newspaper. George Nostrand, who also works at Vermont Psychiatric Survivors, said Corey has encouraged and supported him at many junctures in his career, but often in a way that was “so subtle and without fanfare that I barely noticed it.” “That is part of Linda’s style,” Nostrand continued. “She’s not the type to always walk in the front of the parade, banging a big, loud drum. While she can certainly hold her own in any situation, she leads by supporting and developing others — just like VPS has led programs throughout the state.” Advocate Morgan Brown, who is unaffiliated with Vermont Psychiatric Survivors but has worked with and observed Corey in many arenas over the years, echoed Nostrand’s assessment of her leadership style. “She is a good leader because she encouraged other people to do what they were both capable and comfortable doing,” Brown said. “I respect that a lot.”
Legacy Two principles have guided Corey as she worked to empower those with mental illnesses to speak for themselves and to ensure when people spoke that those in power would listen. The first principle focuses on the promise of recovery for individuals with mental illnesses. They need not be defined by a diagnosis. They can find their way in life. The tool Corey has promoted, Wellness Recovery Action Planning, was developed by Mary Ellen Copeland, a Vemont-based mental-health advocate and author. WRAP has become a national model for helping people with mental illnesses maintain recovery — and now Vermont’s Blueprint for Health program is looking at WRAP as a way to help people with other chronic conditions. The process is taught to a group, Corey said, but individuals must develop written plans tailored to their own needs. The plans: • Include “your early warning signs that you are going to have an issue coming up.” • List “what you can do to keep yourself well,” Corey said, noting that might include the names and phone numbers of peers the person would call, or a reminder that meditation or art would be helpful. • Provide a crisis plan, Corey said: “When things aren’t getting better, what do you do that point?” Corey noted she has a personal WRAP that helps her cope, especially with the haunting trauma of her husband’s death. Prayer and meditation are key components of her WRAP and in plans that many people write, she said: “My spiritualism is the biggest guide in my life and my recovery.” The second principle that has guided Corey in her dealings with peers and people in power she sums up as the “hats off approach.” The idea is that when people sit down at a table, they are equals, she said. “When you walk into a meeting,” she said, “you come as a person, not as a commissioner or a peer.” Ed Paquin, executive director of Disability Rights Vermont, praised Corey for being able to “cultivate a relationship with the state that let her do innovative things.” For example, he pointed to Safe Haven, a six-bed therapeutic home focused on recovery for homeless individuals with mental-health issues. The Randolph home is jointly operated by VPS, which provides the peer staff, and the Clara Martin Center, which provides the treatment. “Things like Safe Haven and peer staffing really paved the way for the direction we want to go,” Paquin said. “You have to give credit to Linda for a lot of the groundwork.” Paquin noted Corey has been able to work with state mental-health officials on big issues and projects at the same time she was challenging them about an individual’s treatment. Morgan Brown of Montpelier also noted her preference for collaboration over confrontation: “She tries to think about the most effective way to get things done without breaking the china.”
What’s next? Corey is uncomfortable with the compliments coming her way as she prepares to step down as head of Vermont Psychiatric Survivors. “The progress that has been made is because of the people I have touched,” she said. Helping people, she said, “has given me the courage to continue forward.” “It is amazing, for someone who has so large a role, she has so little interest in getting recognized,” state Rep. Donahue said. Corey said she intends to stay involved helping individuals to achieve recovery: “I won’t be leaving the peers. They can always contact me.” Corey seemed without anger about her dismissal. “I have nothing against the board,” she said, although she added, “I don’t think all of them have a full understanding about the agency and what it does.” She is focused now on her future: “I am looking out there. I have put in a couple of (job) applications.” She added, “Every time in my life when a door has closed, a new door has opened that let me utilize skills I didn’t know I had.” Contact Nancy Remsen at 578-5685 or email@example.com. Follow Nancy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/nancybfp.
Congratulations to Linda Corey, Executive Director of Vermont Psychiatric Survivors, for being recognized with the Leadership Award at Mental Health Advocacy Day on February 13th 2014 at the State House. Mental Health Advocacy Award Vermont’s Mental Health Advocacy Day Award honors the Vermonters who have made a difference in the lives of others, who embody the spirit of service, support excellence in mental health care, reduce stigma, and renew wellness. Linda Corey, Leadership Award 2014 Linda Corey – From your lived example of love and dedicated service you continue to be a force in the forefront of a movement to empower all people. Truly a pioneer, you protect the rights of others. You have given a voice to those who had no voice. You have advocated in a fierce yet friendly way. Truly a survivor, you are witness to a changing world and a changing mental health care system. For your leadership, perseverance, and courage, we honor you. Alyssum Another Way Pathways Vermont Wellness Workforce Coalition Disability Rights Vermont Vermont Psychological Association Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition Family Project Supported Employment Vermont Center for Independent Living Vermont Mental Health Counselors Association Vermont Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health National Association of Social Workers – Vermont Vermont Council of Developmental and Mental Health Services The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Vermont Vermont Cooperative Practice for Improvement and innovation Vermont Association for Mental Health, Addiction, and Recovery Vermont Psychiatric Survivors
Kudos to the Cadre program, including Board member Rene Rose. They were recently featured on Vermont Public Radio (VPR) highlighting the work they have been doing assisting peers in crisis.
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