After decades of service as a motivational force for peer support and recovery for individuals with mental health and substance use conditions, Jeanie Whitecraft was the 2012 recipient of the Distinguished Career Award for Outstanding Contributions to Psychiatric Rehabilitation presented by the Pennsylvania Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services. But her story begins a little further back in time starting with the development of The Friends Connection Peer Support Program in 1989 in Philadelphia for individuals with co-occurring disorders. Under her guidance, The Friends Connection worked in partnership with the U Penn Collaborative on Community Inclusion of Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities. These studies lead to national participation with the Consumer-Operated Service Program (COSP) Multi-site Research Initiative funded by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The resulting outcomes showed reductions in hospitalization, making The Friends Connection a national model in evidence-based practices for peer support.
Additionally, her accomplishments include the development of the Trail Guides Peer Support Program in Montgomery County Pennsylvania; a made-for-TV documentary – Journey Toward the Light that shows that recovery is possible; the first Spanish-speaking Double Trouble meeting in Philadelphia; and the cultivation of a partnership between Villanova and the Philadelphia County Department of Behavioral Health that resulted in a certificate program to train providers on substance abuse. Her work in Recovery and Peer Support led to the development of the Institute for Recovery and Community Integration (IRCI) where she put her experience to work by developing a three-stage approach for transforming systems to support recovery and the Certified Peer Specialists (CPS).
Always ahead of the curve, Jeanie became one of the first advanced-level Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) facilitators in Pennsylvania and introduced WRAP to Japan.
She has received numerous awards over the years for her work in co-occurring disorders and peer support and has co-authored several publications on the subject including a chapter in On Our Own, Together; Peer Programs for People with Mental Illness (2005 Vanderbilt University Press). After 28 years of service with the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Jeanie now consults for the Copeland Center and brings her expanse of knowledge and compassion to every new challenge and situation including her private wellness practice. When asked “what motivates her” to do what she does, she replies – Juntos Podemos or Together We Can. Keep coming back, keep trying a new way. For her it’s about Connection, Community, Inclusion and Conscious Living.