Co-support group facilitators for many years, Lynelle Saunders and Luann Simpson experienced first-hand the power of peer support. Both living well with bipolar disorder, they spent many years working in advocacy and support for people with mental illness and assisting in the growth of peer support as a profession, their passion to make the service available to everyone led them to open Compassionate Peer Support and Training, LLC. (CPSAT).
Compassionate Peer Support and Training is dedicated to the principles, values, and promotion of peer support. With a dynamic team of trained peer supporters, they provide direct support to individuals living with mental illness, emotional distress, substance use disorder, and/or trauma from the lived experience perspective.
Saunders and Simpson were among the first group of individuals to become Wisconsin Certified Peer Specialists in 2010. Determined to advance the success and profession of peer support, CPSAT also provides supervision, support, consultation, and training to individuals and agencies.
Many people suffer in silence not knowing how to ask for help or even knowing if they are “sick enough to need it” or “worth it”. When you need more than a friend, turning to someone who’s been there can be empowering. A Peer Supporter can walk you out of the challenges you’re wading through today, help you stabilize your emotions, to find hope for the present and future, and to find your voice.
Lynelle began her recovery journey in 2004 following a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder. As she addressed the chaos the disorder brought to all areas of her life she turned to the peer supports of the local NAMI affiliate. Lynelle’s recovery path led her to a passion for supporting others on a similar journey and she and her husband were trained and became active facilitators for NAMI Racine County support and education groups. In 2006 Lynelle joined the staff of NAMI Racine County as the Assistant Program Coordinator for the consumer satisfaction and advocacy program known as NAMI-CAT (Consumer Advocacy Team). Her responsibilities included representation on the Statewide Recovery Implementation Task Force where Lynelle was at the table when the concept of Certified Peer Specialist in Wisconsin was launched. She was among the first group of individuals to become a Certified Peer Specialist in Wisconsin. Lynelle, utilizing her lived experience, worked as a Peer Specialist in the PeerLink program, a pilot program contracted with NAMI- CAT.
In 2013 Lynelle brought her accounting, management, fundraising and program and development skills together with her passion for supporting those living with mental illness to the Racine Friendship Clubhouse where she served as the Executive Director. Working directly with Clubhouse participants offering hope and opportunities for a meaningful, purposeful life has led Lynelle to her current passion of providing compassionate peer support and building the peer specialist profession.
Always willing to tell her story to educate others, Lynelle has presented the details of her journey to mental health recovery to student nurses, health care providers, legislators, and any peer that needed that spark of hope. Doing so led to great satisfaction and the 2016 Luann Simpson Commitment to Mental Health Recovery award.
Lynelle is a lifelong resident of Racine, Wisconsin where she currently resides with her husband of 30 years, Chris, and their dog Buddy. They have two adult children and play a significant role in raising their grandnephew.
Luann is a Certified Advanced Practice Social Worker, and a Wisconsin Certified Peer Specialist. She holds certificates in Life Coaching, Motivational Speaking, Family Mediation and Non-profit Leadership. Luann is co-owner of Compassionate Peer Support and Training, LLC following 23 years of employment with the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Racine County. She has received multiple awards for her work as a mental health advocate and has served on many statewide and local committees and task forces.
She has been an Instructor at the University of Wisconsin- Parkside in the Department of Sociology and is a local and statewide speaker and trainer. She has conducted trainings for professionals, individuals living with mental illness, their family members and caregivers. Trainings offered include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Psychosis for Caregivers, QPR, Person-Centered Planning for Peers, Hearing Voices Curriculum, several NAMI Signature Programs and others.
Luann’s personal experience in the mental health system has led to her active involvement in the peer recovery movement in Wisconsin for over 20 years. Living in recovery for over 20 years she shares her recovery story to inspire hope, support others and improve services and quality of life for all whose lives are affected by mental illness. Luann received her undergraduate and Masters degrees in the UW-system and has lived in Racine, Wisconsin for 50 years, where she currently resides with her two yorkies.
She enjoys traveling, particularly to the mountains of southwestern Pennsylvania, and Broadway musicals.