Friday, 14 August 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






Please note:  At this time, this section focuses on actions related to the House Muprhy Bill (HR 2646).  It will be updated in the near future to reflect actions that can be taken to stop the Senate version (S. 1945), as well!

It can be really hard to know where to even begin when it comes to the legislative process, but there are a number of things you can do and some of them require very little energy.  These include:

  1. Sign this petition and share it with your friends!
  2. Share blogs and articles against the Murphy Bill on social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
  3. Write or call your state legislators (see below for sample statements)
  4. Stay informed about recent developments!!!
  5. Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper or magazine or blog on-line! (See below for tips on how to do this effectively)

Contacting your Congressperson:

To find the contact information for your representative:


Your letter can include these suggestions adapted from @bazeloncenter on twitter

  • “As a constituent, I am calling (or writing) today to ask you (or Representative ______) to oppose the Murphy mental health bill H.R. 2646.
  • It severely limits critical legal advocacy on behalf of individuals with psychiatric diagnoses
  • It reduces privacy protections for individuals with psychiatric diagnoses.
  • It redirects federal money from innovative programs to involuntary outpatient commitment, which is expensive and ineffective.
  • And H.R. 2646 increases needless institutionalization.”


(Your name)

Meeting with Your Congressperson:

Click here for information on how to schedule a meeting with legislators and what to say when you go!


Writing a Letter to the Editor:

Click here for some tips on what to do (and not do) when writing a letter to the editor couresty of www.reclaimdemocracy.org!


Who is Chris Murphy?

Full name:  Christopher Scott MurphyChris Murphy official portrait 113th Congress

Born:  August 3, 1973

Residency:  Born in New York, Lives in Connecticut

Current Position:  US Senate, Connecticut's 16th District (since 2004)

Background:  Murphy graduated from the University of Connecticut School of Law.  He has had a relatively lengthy political career both as campaign manager for other politicians and holding elected office beginning in 1997 when he won a seat on the Planning and Zoning Commission in Southington.  He also held a seat in the House of Representatives before moving into the Senate.

Party Affiliation:  Democrat

Why People are Listening to Him: 

  • Because the Murphy Bills are now seen as decidedly 'bipartisan' and with one Republican Murphy and one Democrat Murphy, the general public is associating the 'bipartisanship' with fairness, collaboration and positive direction overall
  • Murphy has a relatively long political career during which he has taken many strong and well-respected (by many) stances on social issues such as same-sex marriage
  • At least compared to Tim Murphy, his political career seems relatively low on scandal and corruption and (also unlike Tim Murphy) his top 5 donors are include neither the healthcare nor the pharmaceutical industries

Why People May Want to Think Twice About Listening to Him:

  • In spite of his claims of having talked to 'many people' around his state about this issue, he is fairly ill-informed about about the topics in this bill
  • Although Chris Murphy does not have the same questionable pharmaceutical/healthcare connections, he is essentially copying (sometimes just about word-for-word) the Bill of someone who is so influenced (which makes him influenced by association!)
  • Living in Connecticut admist the aftermath of Sandy Hook, he is under an incredible amount of pressure to do something that 'looks' good (even if it's not terribly well thought out or even harmful if one looks below the surface)


For more about Chris Murphy, see his Wikipedia entry here.

Murphy Bill Overview - Senate Version

Just one day after Senator Chris Murphy's birthday, on Tuesday, August 4th, he and Bill Cassidy put out a press release about their new bill, the 'Mental Health Reform Act of 2015.' Also known by its recently assigned number, S. 1945, many are referring to the Bill  as the second Murphy Bill.  Although some seem to be touting it as a great 'bipartisan' effort that mostly focuses on continuing existing programs, a closer read reveals that it is just as bad as the House Murphy Bill in most respects and often near identical.

Like the House Murphy Bill:

  • It loosens restrictions on HIPAA, esentially taking away rights from individuals with psychiatric diagnoses simply because they are so diagnosed
  • It focuses on the concept of 'evidence-based' to the detriment of many of the most innovative and effective supports currently available and ignoring all the problems with the concept of 'evidence-based' itself
  • It includes peer support and peer specialist roles in an effort to control and limit them, rather than support and expand them
  • It continues support fo so-called 'Assisted Outpatient Treatment' (Forced outpatient Commitment!) programs, in spite of their being proven not to work and clearly violating the rights of people who are so forced

Overall, it demonstrates a complete lack of understanding and belief in the potential of people to be go through difficult experiences, be given psychiatric diagnoses, heal and go on with their lives.  (For example, according to the bill, 'peer specialists' must have been in active treatment for the last two years, suggesting that there is no belief that someone with a psychiatric diagnosis may ever be doing well and not be in treatment.)  It limits or eliminates many innovative supports that have not been able to achieve 'evidence-based' status, and feeds a country begging for change more and more of the exact same thing.

For more information:

  1. Check out these talking points from 'Campaign for Real Change in Mental Health Policy' (At least for the moment, the talking points focus more on the House Murphy Bill, but given the similarities, they're still helpful!
  2. Listen to this special 'Talk with Tenney' radio show called, 'Reading the Cassidy-Murphy Bill'
  3. Check out the Muphy Bill webinar slides from the Mental Health Association of Pennsylvania and check back on their website in the near future for a recording of their recent August 11 webinar!
  4. Read the Senate Murphy Bill yourself
  5. Check out this article for a few more suggestions!



RLC Trainers & Speakers





Rainville Exterior Maybe



The Rainville is a 20 year old apartment building in Springfield, located at 32 Byers Street.

It was started by a collection of social service agencies, including Open Door, as well as activist groups, housing organizations and the support of anyone who could offer it.
To be eligible to get in, you must qualify as homeless according to the McKinney Act, which is more complicated than one might think. 
The McKinney Act states:
You must have spent one night in a place unsuitable for human habitation (like a car, outdoors, or an E.R.)


Some basic facts about the Rainville:

What is the Rainville?

The Rainville is an apartment building at 32 Byers St. in downtown Springfield. It was designed and implemented by a combination of HAP, HUD, local religious and social justice leaders with the idea of providing permanent, affordable and sustainable housing for the local homeless community.

From the old tenants association website:

This building project (the renovation of 32 Byers Street) was started by a group of non-profit and anti-poverty agencies and people in the early 1990's. By 1996 they were renting out the units, all of which include a room with a kitchenette for sleeping and other activities and a separate bathroom and closet.

The units are efficiency apartments, beds are provided and the rent is based on income and the generally accepted affordable income percentages.

Who is eligible?

Folks who are currently homeless or at risk of being homeless. Homeless verification can be obtained in a letter from a program, hospital, treatment center, shelter, social worker or from the individual, themselves. There is a form attached to the application that explains this in more details (see below for an application).There is no minimum income required to apply.

What is the role of the Western Mass RLC in the Rainville?

We offer peer support, tenancy preservation supports, and are the first step in the application process. We are, as with everything we do, still the WMRLC in our values and sense of community.

How do I apply? 

If you are interested in an application, click here to print one out, or email Rafael (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). If you're looking for help in filling out an application, Rafael can help with that too.

The Rainville is not a program, transitional housing or sober house.

There are house rules,

which would look familiar to most lease agreements for an apartment.

People are expected to be able to take care of their units and themselves.

Getting in can take some time and there is a wait list.

To view the full Rainville application, click here.

To view the Rainville brochure, click here.



Some Rainville History
from Charlie Knight
Over 20 years ago, Michaelann Bewsee saw a notice that a building was going up for sale, just as the government was trying to straighten out the Savings and Loan Fiasco. She told Keven Noonan about it, and they also contacted the Anti-Poverty agency for the city, then Called the Springfield Action Commission. "Buddy" Langford, then the Executive Director of SAC, worked with his board - (they were the "pass-through" agency) - and Keven Noonan put in some of his own money. A group was formed, called Rainville Associates and that group obtained the property from SAC and developed it and then sold it to 32 Byers Street, Inc. 
By March of 1996, the ribbon had been cut, and by June over half the house had tenants in the place. Ms. Foster was the first "social worker" that spent part of her time here and part at SAC.  When it came time to consider renewing her contract, the board of directors declined to do so. We had found out that most of our tenants were going to Open Door Social Services on School Street about a block or so away. 
We asked if we could contract with them for these services, and because we were thinking of doing this, Keven Noonan stepped down as Board of Directors President. We did contract with Open Door, and for many years ran in the red, because we felt social services were important when the government did not think so, and HUD funds were being spent for that. 
About 20 years later, social services for formerly homeless tenants are "best practices", and we can take pride in sensing that our people needed such services. After the Southern Middlesex Opportunity Council (SMOC) took over the operations of Open Pantry, of which Open Door is a part, and the city took over the funding for the Open Door program, we had less of a happy time with the two directors of Open Door and felt we might best move to a more peer-oriented social services component. Hence we gave notice to Open Pantry that we would not need the services of Open Door, and contracted with the Recovery Learning Community for such peer-to-peer services.
The original idea was that people would get a solid footing here and move on to other places. We also hoped that a core goup of people could be found that had been homeless to help us run the daily operations of the Rainville but until that time, which we hand anticipated being between 10 and 15 years, we would contract with Home City Housing to provide such Property Management Services.
Very few people are still here from those first days, partly because we are so near the Springfield Technical Community College campus, and partly because we are project-based Section 8 housing (for all but 4 "home" units), and the wait time for a "mobile" or "Tenant Based" Section 8 voucher is about 18-26 years. One person just got his this year and moved out before August. 
Another person, who moved out about 2006 or 2007 had children and got custody of them again. Her name is Diane, and she was a co-signer of the suit and petition that went to court and paved the way for Ward Representation in this city. Diane improved her life and I saw her daughter withing the year, who has a child of here own now, and she said Diane was back "home" with relatives. Diane is an example of how this place is supposed to work. She got on her feet, worked with Arise for Social Justice and some other groups, was active in the city, and got her children back. Sometimes two or three of us would walk with Diane when she brought her children back to her estranged husband, partly to provide safety, and partly so Diane would have some one to converse with on the walk back. 
In the first few years Charlie Knight was here, we had Spring and Fall "clean ups" and worked with MASSPIRG on some things and with SAC on other things. We also formed a "crime watch", and one of our tenants ran for the board of directors of the Springfield Action Commission as a "low income" board member. We often went Christmas Caroling and sometimes had Advent Wreath lighting services in one of our tenant's room. 
  • At one time 4 or 5 people were attending college at Springfield Technical Community College, and traveled by bus up to U. Mass. 
  • One of our Resident Managers found employment as an interpreter as the Holyoke Hospital.
  • Two people have been on the board of directors from the beginning - some of our past board members have been architects or involved in finance, and a past board President used to be on the flight crew of Air Force One. 
  • One of our tenants helped to form an Organic Community Garden over on School Street.  
  • One resident applied and was granted an internship one summer at the Administration on Ageing making web pages.
  • One of our tenants became a "poll worker" for the city's election commission. He moved on to another location but still works at the poles for this area. 
I would be happy to answer any questions and maybe you can get a better "feel" for the people here that have gone through so much and have felt endangered, often when they had lost the ability to turn the key and return "home". We provide a place for them to once again start to feel secure and move on to look for other and better housing than a SRO (Single Room Occupancy) apartment. It was Keven Noonan, then Executive Director of Open Pantry Community Services, that fought for a bathroom and a kitchenette of our own for each tenant, so they could see how a real apartment could be.
Many of our people from time to time have sought "professional services" to "deal with" various "issues" that might have caused them to become homeless or came as a result of trying to stay alive while homeless. Some of our tenants have attended and became members of the Armoury Quadrangle Civic Association, even going so far as to become a member of a committee or even on the board of directors of that group. Many of our tenants have also attended the Massachusetts Career Development Institute and learned skills for good paying jobs in solid fields of labor.We have accomplished much, and hope to do more in the next decade.
One of our goals of the past 5 years has been to broaden the Board of Directors, have the board be more representative of the population of this area, and also have the involvement of those people with special skills that can assist this building in doing the best it can to heal the hurting people (the homeless) that we draw our tenants from.
Charlie Knight


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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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