Welcome to the Western Mass Recovering Learning Community
The Western Mass Recovery Learning Community (RLC) creates conditions that support healing and growth for individuals and the community as a whole through learning opportunities, advocacy, peer-to-peer support and the development of regional and national networks. We believe that human relationships are often at the center of what heal people who have experienced extreme emotional distress, trauma, psychiatric diagnoses, addiction and a variety of other challenges in life. We also believe that we are a part of a civil and human rights movement and that real change does not happen on a sustainable level unless everyone is involved in the process and issues like discrimination, poverty, imbalances of power and acceptance of natural diversity are addressed.
The Western Mass Recovery Learning Community (RLC) is made up of PEOPLE (not places) and is wherever and however YOU and others from the community may choose to connect. Together, we offer a variety of events, workshops, trainings, advocacy and leadership councils, as well as a peer support line, four resource centers (Springfield, Greenfield, Holyoke and Pittsfield) and a Peer Respite in Northampton. Above all else, we create space for anyone who has a genuine interest in taking part in our community and holding its values to share and find connection, information, ideas and opportunities to make change in their own lives and/or the community around them. Our shared experiences and ‘humanness’ are what unite us. Our stories, collective wisdom and strength are what guide us and our community forward.
The Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) has issued revisions to several of its regulations, most notably the regulations related to the complaint procedure and review.
DMH is currently inviting feedback on these changes until September 16.
You can read the notice and find links to all the changes HERE.
However, the most important section (focused on investigation and reporting responsibilities for the complaint process) can be found HERE.
There are many changes that have raised concern with the Disability Law Center and others around the state. Of particular note, the new regulations offer much more room to dismiss complaints including (but not limited to) the following reasons (page 5):
1. Concerns an allegation that is not perceived to be "dangerous, illegal, or inhumane"
2. Makes allegations that are objectively impossible
3. Repeats allegation of facts that have previously been investigated
Unfortunately, while these may seem logical exclusions on the surface, they leave a great deal of room for interpretation. Could 'objectively impossible' be as simple as saying someone attacked you on a day they weren't working because you got the days mixed up? Could 'repeats allegation' be used to dismiss the same complaint, even if its a new or repeated incident? What sorts of complaints may be deemed not "dangerous, illegal, or inhumane?"
It is critical to note that the DMH Complaint process as it currently exists is already seen as insufficient by many people who currently or have received services. People often share about not feeling heard, feeling that their complaints have been minimized or dismissed, or that accountability even for complaints that are validated is limited. Perhaps even more importantly, many (if not most) complaints don't ever get filed because people fear the consequences of speaking up in that way.
For these reasons, any weakening of the complaint process should be seen as unacceptable. We hope that you will take the time to speak up!
Facilitated by: Earl Miller
This event is intended to create space for people in the local community to come together and talk about the realities of all the traumatic events and violence playing out around us and constantly flooding the news.
We will have the opportunity to share how we have been impacted, network and talk about what our support and advocacy efforts might look like moving forward.
This dialogue is specifically for people of color.
Community Dialogue: Healing Racism
Tuesday, September 13, 6pm to 8pm
@ the Holyoke Library,
250 Chestnut Street, Holyoke
Facilitated by: Louis Mitchell & Michaelann Bewsee
This event is intended to create space for people in the local community to come together in recognition of ongoing violence against black people in our nation, and to talk about our own roles in healing racism.
We will have the opportunity to explore systemic racism, white privilege, and other issues requiring personal examination in order to make change and not be complicit with the harms being done (though we know, going in, that time will run short and this dialogue will need to be just one of many).
This dialogue is just one step of many.
The RLC community is made up of people who’ve experienced psychiatric diagnosis, extreme states, trauma, and a variety of other life-interrupting challenges. Unquestionably, systemic oppression leads to trauma, and interruptions in one’s ability to lead a full life. In other words, racism is trauma, and as our mission statement says, “recognizing and undoing systemic injustices such as racism, sexism, transphobia and psychiatric oppression” is essential to our work.
Arthur Chu: “What is the impulse behind changing #BlackLivesMatter to #AllLivesMatter? Do you crash a strangers funeral shouting I TOO HAVE FELT LOSS?”
GeekAesthete (Reddit User): “Imagine that you’re sitting down to dinner with your family, and while everyone else gets a serving of the meal, you don’t get any. So you say “I should get my fair share.” And as a direct response to this, your dad corrects you, saying, “everyone should get their fair share.”
For more on this topic see: "What you Mean by #AllLivesMatter" by Arielle Newton.
We’re excited to share that the Western Mass RLC has made some high-profile appearances in the mainstream media this past month. The first was in a New York Times article, 'An Alternative Form of Mental Health Care Gains a Foothold', by Benedict Carey. It appeared in print and on-line on Tuesday, August 8, and featured some of the great Hearing Voices work led by RLC team members, Caroline White, Marty Hadge and others in our community.
Then on Friday, August 12, an editorial called, 'How We’re Missing the Real Story on Mental Health In Massachusetts' appeared in the Boston Globe. It was written by the Sera Davidow, also of the Western Mass RLC. This article highlighted both the good and the bad that the mainstream news often overlooks.
Both articles appeared on the front of the science sections of their respective publications and can still be viewed on-line (click the links above!).