John Moneypenny draws upon a strong work ethic to advance his recovery, purpose

—by Matthew K. Weiland, Nicole Clevenger & Paul M. Kubek

Akron, OH—Nicole Clevenger first heard John Moneypenny tell his recovery story during a workshop at the 2008 Conference of the Ohio Supported Employment Coordinating Center of Excellence (SE CCOE) and was immediately struck by his honesty and humility, his ability to spare no details in much the same way that life sometimes pulls no punches.

Nicole is a consultant and trainer at the Ohio SE CCOE, an initiative of the Center for Evidence-Based Practices at Case Western Reserve University. In this role, she works to promote the advantages of employment among people diagnosed with severe mental illness. She also helps mental-health service organizations implement Supported Employment (SE), the evidence-based practice, which is designed specifically to help people who have been diagnosed with severe mental illness acquire and keep regular jobs in the community.

Nicole has subsequently struck up a professional friendship with John through her work with the Ohio Peer-Employment Partnership, an initiative sponsored by the Ohio Department of Mental Health (ODMH) that is designed to assist consumer-operated services throughout the state as they help people who have been diagnosed with a severe mental illness consider employment as a viable treatment option. ODMH is collaborating with the Ohio SE CCOE to provide technical assistance (consulting and training) to staff of consumer-operated services that participate in the Peer-Employment Partnership.

The Conversation

John Moneypenny is Assistant Director of the Choices Community Social Center in Akron, Ohio, a gathering place that provides a social, recreational, and educational outlet for adults recovering from mental illness in the surrounding Summit County area. Its purpose is to provide a community-based facility that enhances individual growth. Nicole visited John at Choices and asked him to recount his story, so it might be shared as a source of inspiration for staff at service organizations, advocates in local communities, people in recovery, and family members and friends who are important sources of support. This story is a reminder that anyone who wants to work can and will succeed with ongoing support.

Introduction to Peer Employment Partnership (4m 0s)

Nicole Clevenger provides an overview of the Ohio Department of Mental Health's Peer-Employment Partnership and an introduction to the story of John Moneypenny.

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Meet John Moneypenny (2m 41s)

Having worked all his life, John Moneypenny always recognized that having a job was a way of avoiding trouble.

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The Big Unravel (3m 26s)

John's world began to unravel, resulting in a lengthy hospital stay from which he began his slow journey back toward mental wellness.

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A Living Space (2m 18s)

Nicole Clevenger and Vera Booker, a member of Choices Community Social Center, provide a brief profile on the gathering place for adults who are receiving mental-health services in the Summit County area.

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For John, Work Is Recovery (1m 47s)

Work has always been a way of stabilizing symptoms and staying on track for John Moneypenny: it keeps his mind busy, motivating him in the process.

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Living the Example (1m 36s)

Nicole Clevenger has been inspired by John's story, by his willingness to share it so openly and honestly, as well as by the example he sets in his day-to-day life.

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Benefits Planning and Peace of Mind (1m 43s)

Understanding his Social Security benefits gave John the confidence and the chance to buy a house for himself and his two children without ever compromising or losing his medical benefits.

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A Point of Pride (2m 14s)

John's positive attitude radiates toward those around him and he's most proud of the people who come to Choices Community Social Center then branch-out to other endeavors that promote their recovery.

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The Complete Story

We've combined all of the tracks above into one file. Download it. Share it. Spread the news.

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For Discussion

This section is designed for service teams and others interested in Supported Employment (SE), the evidence-based practice. Reflect upon the story above and consider how these SE components were present or not in John's story.

Zero Exclusion

With evidence-based SE services, any person who expresses a desire to work is immediately referred to an employment specialist regardless of symptom severity, work history, or stage in the recovery process. Though John's work life was interrupted by hospitalization, his desire to work remained intact and it became an important impetus for his recovery.

If John had had access to evidence-based SE services, his desire to work would have been acknowledged and supported by his case manager, psychiatrist, and other service providers. He would have been immediately referred to an employment specialist, who would have worked closely with him to identify and obtain the job of his choice quickly.

Consumer Preferences

Having worked in various jobs all of his life, John had a unique perspective about what he liked in a job, what his strengths were, and how he wished to develop those strengths. Employment specialists that are using the evidence-based SE model pay particular attention to this insight and embrace it, helping the person find a specific job that taps into these strengths and, thus, propels the momentum of recovery and personal development.

Benefits Planning

"Personalized benefits planning" is a core principle of the evidence-based SE model that helps people make informed choices about their employment options. John sought expert information about how his benefits would and would not be impacted by earned income from a job. As a result, he was able to purchase a house and to maintain his medical benefits while working.


One of the key components to John's success has been the availability of ongoing peer support, which can be a powerful form of follow-along support for people who are employed and living with a severe mental illness. Peer support can also play a vital role in helping people who are not employed develop hope for a working life. Peer support can also help individuals resolve ambivalence and make informed choices about employment.

The evidence-based SE model encourages the use of peer support as part of a menu of options for continuous follow-along support. Follow-along services also include ongoing communication with an employment specialist, as well as other service providers, such as a case manager, psychiatrist, and benefits planner. The consistent, personalized attention over time from a team of providers creates the working alliance that is so important for the success of people who utilize evidence-based SE services.


A reference to music used in this story:

  • Jason Dennie (1996). Living on Melody Lane. Wooden Pops Music.

Nicole Clevenger, BFA, is SE consultant and trainer; Matthew K. Weiland, MA, is senior writer and producer; and Paul M. Kubek, MA, is director of communications at the Center for Evidence-Based Practices at Case Western Reserve University—a partnership of the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case and the Department of Psychiatry at the Case School of Medicine. The Ohio SE CCOE is a program of the Center for EBPs.