In Honor of Darby Penney

Harvey Rosenthal, New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS)

I'm so very shocked and devastated to learn of Darby's passing due to cancer's cruelty.... Darby Penney was a tireless fighter and champion who changed our world forever. She was always our courageous heroine, always challenging us to be relentless in our devotion to rights and unadulterated peer support and services because she herself was always tireless...a fiercely honest keeper of our conscience. I've always talked about carrying her 'on my self shoulder', always wondering 'what would Darby think or say about this?" Even today we are insisting on holding strong to our shared values in new work with our friends here and's not been easy but Darby's been on my left shoulder throughout and I don't want to let her and our values down.

Darby was always the courageous critic....she was a tireless voice for change as New York's first Director of Recipient Affairs. In that role, she worked to see that New York create a peer specialist item...and then publicly regretted it for the rest of her life for the co-optation that forever challenges us. To that point, she wrote “Who Gets to Define “Peer Support?”

She would come back from meetings with government and others saying with part disgust and mischief "oh, gag me with a spoon".

It was always too easy to miss how hard it was on her personally to be that often unpopular truthteller but she always kept to her vision and values whatever the cost.

Darby and I shared a very special bond....we were both ex-cab drivers and rabid Yankee fans and animal and nature lovers.

I can't believe she's gone in body but certainly not in spirit. I can see her now alongside her beloved Ken walking in the midst of the incredible flower gardens she loved so much. And I hope she never leaves my left shoulder. Rest in power Darby.

October 12, 2021

From the Advocates for Human Potential website, where she worked as a Senior Research Association:

Darby Penney, M.L.S., a senior research associate at Advocates for Human Potential (AHP), is a qualitative researcher, trainer, and technical assistance (TA) provider whose subject matter expertise includes trauma-informed approaches, peer support, homelessness, justice system involvement, and peer involvement in policy and programs. She is an award-winning leader, advocate, and writer who identifies as a person with a psychiatric history. Ms. Penney has led studies and projects at the national, state, and local levels, encompassing subjects such as peer support, trauma-informed practices, and homelessness. For a decade, she was director of recipient affairs at the New York State Office of Mental Health, where she brought the perspectives of people with psychiatric histories into all aspects of policymaking, program development, and evaluation. She has extensive experience in mental health policy and program development, training and technical assistance, program management, and materials development. She received her M.L.S. in reference service and library instruction from the State University of New York, Albany.