[singlepic id=51 w=320 h=240 float=left]Congratulations to Assistant Regional Director Rebecca McKeown, who was awarded the 2011 Distinguished Practitioner Award by PAPSRS at their annual Conference held at Penn State on April 6th.

Rebecca was nominated for the award by her supervisor, Jennifer Pennypacker, who submitted the following narrative for consideration:

Rebecca has worked at CareLink for 8 years. Over the course of her tenure she has supervised three different residential programs. She approaches each new residence by looking for the possibilities. She brings a fresh perspective with no preconceptions about what individuals with mental illness “can’t do”.

There are so many words that can be used to describe Rebecca in her work with people with mental illness. I will just highlight three-hopeful, optimistic and accepting.

[singlepic id=50 w=320 h=240 float=left]Hopeful: She truly believes that there is hope and the possibility for recovery. When she began working at our Marsh Creek program, residents had always reported being happy with their service and their home. Yet, their progression of independent skills necessary to live in their own apartment had been stagnant in recent years. Rebecca really took the time to listen to the residents and their hopes and dreams. Over the years one resident would periodically talk about wanting to get a reduced rate bus card, but since public transportation is not near the home, this was not pursued. Rebecca explored this further with him to identify the significance and importance to him. She found that he valued the freedom to go out without having staff or other residents with him and travel on his own. Rebecca advocated for the resident with his family when they expressed concern for his safety while using public transportation. She and the resident, working together, were able to “win” the family over by addressing the safety concerns and by highlighting he would be able to use public transportation to come and see them and save them a long trip. During CRR licensure, the reviewer who had known the resident for many years was amazed to hear of this accomplishment. Despite the person previously reporting being happy and satisfied, she continued to use the principles of psychiatric rehabilitation to help him achieve this new skill. The pride that he shows when talking about the places he goes has helped him grow in confidence in his ability to integrate in the community.

Optimistic: Rebecca truly believes in the possibility of people with mental illness reaching their dreams. She has shown residents that there is a world outside the CareLink home and that they can make a home for themselves. By having someone believe in them, they have begun to believe in themselves again. She uses real life experiences to help bring about change in their lives. She does not view the residents as necessarily people with mental illness, but as people who need additional supports at times. So, her goal is how can we (herself and the staff she supervises) access different supports to help them achieve their dreams. When some of the residents encountered difficulties with progressing in skills to independently manage their own medications, she looked to real life examples. Recognizing that the names of some medications are not easy, she looked at it rationally -maybe the pronunciation is not perfect, but if they have the spelling in writing and can discuss why they are taking it, that is more important than a missing syllable-or focusing on learning the brand names instead of the generic name.

Accepting: Rebecca embraces the concept that recovery happens at an individual pace. She is always ready to help the person take that next step by talking with them, rather than telling them what she thinks or what they should do. There are so many examples that occur on a weekly if not daily basis. Just a simple one to illustrate the point: One man struggles with impulsivity that leads him to spend his money almost as soon as it’s in his pocket, give out cigarettes to whomever asks him, etc. The staff had been helping him to budget the bulk of cigarettes he gets at the beginning of the month by giving him one pack a day. He decided that he wanted to have a carton all at once. Rebecca discussed with him some of the potential challenges he might face of others asking him for cigarettes. After only a few days of encountering others asking him for cigarettes, he asked to have staff hold his carton again while he works on being assertive in saying “no” to his house mates. Rebecca pointed out to staff the value in him making that decision rather than staff making it for him. As this man works on ways to say “no” and budget his cigarettes on his own, Rebecca will remain a partner with him as his tests out his assertiveness over the months to come.

She also a keen observer of behavior-both in the individuals we serve and the employees who work with them. She wants the best for all people concerned and to see them succeed. She puts in the extra mile (plus 100) to insure they have to skills and supports to be successful. Adjusting her schedule to spend a little extra time with consumers or staff is not unusual. She leads by example and is routinely seen modeling skills for staff and residents. This shows everyone that her job is not just a job, but a calling. Rebecca’s example has reminded me on numerous occasions not to get complacent and to open myself to the possibilities and work to inspire the residents to see their potential. I look forward to continuing to work with Rebecca and see the positive changes, experiences and successes she can inspire in the individuals we serve.

CareLink would like to congratulate Rebecca for her achievements and dedication to people in recovery.