Saturday, 26 September 2020

Welcome to the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community





The Western Mass Recovery Learning Community (RLC) supports healing and empowerment for our broader communities and people who have been impacted by psychiatric diagnosis, trauma, extreme states, homelessness, problems with substances, and other life-interrupting challenges through:

  • Peer-to-peer support & genuine human relationships
  • Alternative Healing Practices
  • Learning Opportunities
  • Advocacy

Essential to our work is recognizing and undoing systemic injustices such as racism, sexism, ableism, transphobia, transmisogyny, and psychiatric oppression.


The 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, three resource centers (Springfield, Greenfield, and Holyoke) 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 Recovery Learning Community (RLC) is a peer-run project providing supports to individuals with lived experience.  One of the founding concepts behind the RLC is that human relationships with people are healing, particularly when those people have similar experiences.  And so, above all else, the RLC strives to create forums through which human relationships, community and a regional network of supports can develop.  On a day-to-day basis, that effort may take the form of a community meeting, a support group, a computer workshop and/or simply offering a safe space where people can communicate with others or simply be.  The RLC also acts a clearing house for information about other resources in the community.   

 The Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community is funded, in part, by the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, the United Way of Franklin County, and a variety of private foundations and donations.liveunited logo





Pushing Back After Charlottesville

No CakeThe Western Mass RLC is at its heart, dedicated to civil and human rights. We are committed to fighting oppression of every kind, including discrimination, racism, homophobia, transphobia, poverty, power imbalances, and for the acceptance of natural diversity.
This particular moment in time calls for our community to engage, and to offer what we can. Now is not the time to eat cake, no matter how tempting that option is for people of privilege.
There are many ways to push back against the hateful rhetoric that is currently on the rise and being encouraged by our current climate. There are opportunities at every energy level. Stuff envelopes. Educate yourself. Talk with the people you know, or those you don't. Donate money or time to help support victims and organizers, and help pay for their medical and legal needs. We can phone our country's representatives. Show up at counter-protests and demonstrations. Or we can start something altogether new. Regardless of our limitations, or our expectations of ourselves, there is room for everyone somewhere.
If we don't show up for the fight against racism and other kinds of hate and discrimination, we are lying to ourselves in our mission statement. If we don't show up for this fight, we are an altogether different community. We have a mission - we cannot "opt out".

Holyoke Center Closed for a Few Months

The RLC’s Holyoke Center will be closed for August and September,
with hopes to re-open by October.
However, the closing is for a good reason!
We are excited to report that we will be moving to a storefront space just a few doors down from our current location. This space will help us overcome our recent issues with elevators and locked front doors that have made the space hard to access. In fact, we have big hopes for how being easy to find and access may help re-energize our community in the Holyoke area!
While closed, we will still offer a few groups and opportunities to help with moving.
Check the Holyoke area calendar (CLICK HERE) for details.
We also hope that people will take this opportunity to check out our other centers, especially the Bowen Center at 235 Chestnut Street in Springfield. Bowen also recently moved and re-opened, and is doing great. Their open hours are Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9am to 2pm, and Saturday from 11am to 3pm, with other groups and opportunities at various times throughout the week. See the Springfield area calendar (CLICK HERE) for more.
In the meantime, we’ll be sure to keep you up-to-date with the moving process, and as soon as we know an official opening date, we’ll get it posted!

What's Going on at SAMHSA (And Why You Should Care)

On Friday, April 21st, Trump’s nominee for the 'Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use in the Department of Health and Human Services' was announced: Elinore McCance-Katz. The position McCance-Katz would be filling is a new one, created by the version of Tim Murphy’s ‘Helping Families in Crisis’ act (also known as the ‘Murphy Bill’) that got slipped in and approved with the ‘21st Century Cures’ act a few months back. This position would essentially put her in charge of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration known more commonly as ‘SAMHSA’. 
Some of her stated priorities include:
  • Increase the number of inpatient psychiatric beds
  • Reconfigure health privacy laws to give families access to information about individuals deemed 'severely mentally ill'
  • Reevaluate federal funding for suicide hotlines and peer support
McCance-Katz, who previously served as the Chief Medical Officer at SAMHSA, has spoken out openly in favor of measures like <b>Involuntary Outpatient Commitment</b> (also known as ‘Assisted Outpatient Treatment’ or AOT, basically boiling down to force, including forced drugging that can even occur in people’s own homes). 
She has also opposed many criticisms of psychiatric drugs, even in the face of a growing scientific body of evidence that their efficacy (and potentially damaging effects) are well worth being questioned.  She even comes with the strong recommendation of DJ Jaffee, founder of  mentalillnesspolicy.org and enemy to all things peer-support-related. 
Interestingly, Murphy has spoken out against</I> McCance-Katz’s nomination. And, as much as we’d like to agree with Murphy that she’s not ‘the one’, Murphy only has even more damaging recommendations waiting in the wings. Fortunately, the Western Mass RLC is not funded through SAMHSA or federal funds, but it does appear that dark times loom ahead for SAMHSA, and it’s likely to trickle down to us one way or another. 
Involuntary Outpatient Commitment in Massachusetts? Reduction of access to peer supports  (or threats to the integrity of these important roles)? Budget cuts for some of the country's most innovative efforts?All of it could be headed our way.
Stay tuned for more updates as this all develops, and check out this blog by David Oaks for more details while you wait: Trump Appoints Leader Who Campaigned for Involuntary Outpatient Drugging

Workshops with Jacqui Dillon

Advanced Hearing Voices Facilitator TrainingJacqui flyer
Wednesday, June 7 & Thursday, June 8,
10am to 4:30pm, Holyoke area, location TBD
This workshop is intended for those who have already completed the 3-day Hearing Voices Group Facilitator training, and/or who otherwise have extensive Hearing Voices group facilitation experience. The workshop will provide an opportunity to meet other facilitators, link up with other groups, and share good practices around setting up and sustaining Hearing voices groups.
The workshop will explore:
  • Projects and Network news
  • Group discussion and dynamics
  • Successes and challenges
  • Featured presentations on advances in innovative approaches
Dealing with Vicarious Trauma: Helping the Helper
Monday, June 12, 10-4:30pm
Holyoke Community College, Kittredge Center, Holyoke, MA
(Sponsored by the WMRLC)
Tuesday, June 13, 10- 4:30pm
Advocates, 1881 Worcester Road, Framingham, MA
(Sponsored by Advocates)
Vicarious trauma is the process of change that happens because you care about other people who have been hurt, and feel committed or responsible to help them. Over time, this process can lead to changes in your psychological, physical, and spiritual well-being.
The workshop will explore:
  • Risk factors in developing vicarious trauma
  • Signs of vicarious trauma
  • Strategies for dealing effectively with the impact of vicarious trauma
  • Beyond vicarious trauma—to vicarious transformation
Who is Jacqui Dillon?: Jacqui is a writer, and international speaker and trainer. She has personal and professional experience, awareness and skills in working with trauma and abuse, dissociation, hearing voices, and healing. She has lectured and published worldwide. She also has one of those great English accents that us Americans seem to so love! Learn more about Jacqui at www.jacquidillon.org

SPECIAL EVENT: Open Dialogue with Mia Kurtti

Thursday, March 16, 7pm to 9pmOpen Dialogue event 2017

@ Holyoke Community College, Kittredge Center

303 Homestead Avenue, Holyoke

We are pleased to share this opportunity to join as a community to learn more about Open Dialogue! We realize it's shorter-than-usual notice, but hope that you'll be able to join us.

Open Dialogue offers an alternative to supporting people experiencing extreme emotional distress or ‘crisis’. It emphasizes dialogue directly with the person in distress along with others in their own social network, avoidance of talking about someone without them present, and a much
broader way of making meaning of what is at the root of the struggle.

Open Dialogue is getting some of the best documented success rates in the world, including outcomes such as marked reductions in the use of psychotropic drugs, hospitalizations, and long term disability.

miaMia is a psychotherapist and psychiatric nurse. She works in the acute crisis clinic in Keropudas Hospital in the western Lapland region of Finland. Extensively trained in Open Dialogue, Mia has been a member of the team that developed Open Dialogue since 2002. She was also featured in Daniel Mackler’s 2014 film ‘Open Dialogue’, now available on Youtube.


Fridays at Forest Park

9am-2pm every Friday Forest Park
Forest Park, 200 Trafton Road, Springfield
Join the Bowen community in Forest Park every Friday as we the transition to our new space. The park is on a bus route. We’ll be hanging out during the usual Bowen open hours, from 9am-2pm, playing chess, and having a few groups:
Summer Art Group in the Park
Fridays, 10-11am
Join Ana and other community members for an hour of art at your own pace, and with your own voice.
Alternatives To Suicide Support Group
Fridays, 2:30pm-4pm
A peer-run group for individuals who want a safe, judgment-free zone to talk about alternatives to suicide. The group is supportive and confidential and strives to create a space where people can provide peer support for one another, and strategize about alternatives to help each other best cope with difficult life circumstances.


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  • The Murphy Bills and Beyond

    In June of 2015, Representative Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania re-introduced the "Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act" (HR 2646), better known as the Murphy Bill.  A month later, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut introduced a very similar bill in the Senate called the "Mental Health Reform Act of 2015" (S2680).  Both pieces of legislation threatened to dramatically increase the use of force and dismantle many of the more progressive and healing alternatives that have been developed in recent years. As of November 2016 the fate of both bills remained uncertain.

    Meanwhile, another piece of legislation called 21st Century Cures was in development and garnering increasing bipartisan support. A sweeping and expansive healthcare bill, 21st Century Cures was, initially, minimally focused on mental health provisions. Having been stalled in part due to resistance from Senate Democrats' concerns that the bill was dangerously empowering for the pharmaceutical industry, 21st Century Cures also faced an uncertain fate in November. However, the election of President Trump and consequent fears for the bill’s fate prompted a reworking of the bill that also included the absorption of many aspects of HR 2646, “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis.”

    21st Century Cures was passed by the House and Senate on November 30th and December 7th of last year, respectively. On December 13, 21st Century Cures (now including substantial portions drawn directly from HR 2646, "Helping Familties in Mental Health Crisis") was signed into law by President Obama. 



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