Recovering from a drug addiction is difficult. So is living with a mental illness.

When people tell Yvette Lampley, 58, she can’t possibly understand their struggles, she sets them straight.

“I’m a recovering addict,” she said. “I’ve been homeless. I’ve been in the hospital. I’ve been in jail. I’ve been in a padded cell.”

But one day, she was released from prison and vowed never to return.

“I wanted to live my life,” she said.

And she has.

After working at numerous temporary jobs, where she learned the skills she would later use at Community Behavioral Health, her brother-in-law encouraged Lampley to apply to be a peer specialist on the Assertive Community Treatment team. It turned out her number one qualification for the job was her ability to empathize with clients.

For 10 years, she has been giving encouragement; sharing wisdom; and helping meet practical needs, such as locating permanent shelter, applying for jobs and navigating social services with clients.

This April, she was recognized as an innovative community leader in the field of mental health by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. She said receiving the award for Excellence in Clinical Service was a nice surprise.

“I guess somebody saw something in me,” she said. “I’m not an awards or celebration type. I kind of just do what I love to do. I’m just doing what I’m supposed to be doing, and I’m supposed to be caring for the mentally ill.”

According to Anna Derksen, director of Employee Wellness for Community First Solutions, Lampley has become an integral part of CBH.

“Yvette’s insight is highly regarded,” she said. “Yvette has created lasting relationships among her behavioral health peers, as well as external resources that benefit her clients and the entire organization. She is dedicated to finding solutions for every individual she encounters, and is not afraid to ask the hard questions to get them what is necessary.”

Lampley said she appreciates that the ACT team members respect her opinion and perspective, “even though I don’t have any degrees.”

She especially holds provider Karen King in high regard for her willingness to seek Lampley out for an opinion.

“She always lets me know I am part of this team,” Lampley said. “She always lets me know I am just as important as anyone with a degree.”

Her calling, she said, has always been to help others get what they need to be successful. Recently, she completed all the requirements to become a Peer Supporter. It is an achievement for which she is especially proud, because it enables her to further help clients get their lives back on track.

“I’ve been there, but I know there is another side to it – there’s a brighter day,” she said. “Even though I have a job to do, and I have to keep boundaries, I still remember (clients) are human first, and I let my moral compass guide me.”