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





July 11 Hearing

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JULY 11, 2017.....People who were involuntarily committed to hospitals and who dropped medicine regimes that made them feel worse told lawmakers about their experiences in the mental health system Tuesday as they spoke against bills they said would allow courts to order outpatient treatment.

Opponents of the bills described them as restrictive and said policymakers should instead funnel more resources into voluntary, peer-based supports that allow people to choose paths to recovery that work for them.

"Taking away people's civil liberties in the name of treatment is simply wrong and doesn't work," Ruthie Poole of M-POWER, an advocacy group representing current and former psychiatric patients, told members of the Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery.

SHNS Audio: Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery Committee hearing

Poole said she was twice involuntarily committed to a psychiatric unit after first responders took her from her home tied down to a gurney. She said she lost touch with reality while committed and her mental health "fared much better" when she was in control of her choices.

Members of M-POWER and others who had been treated for mental health conditions asked the committee to oppose three bills: Rep. Kay Khan's bill dealing with emergency treatment plans (H 1069); Rep. Mathew Muratore's proposal to establish court-ordered outpatient mental health treatment (H 1073); and legislation filed by the late Sen. Ken Donnelly (S 1087) setting procedures for petitioning courts to issue a "critical community health service treatment plan."

Khan's bill, according to her office, establishes the role of "treatment monitor" to oversee a court's treatment plan and report on a patient's compliance, in hopes of limiting the cycling of patients in and out of psychiatric hospitals when they stop taking medications.

Social worker Lynn Nanos spoke in support of the Donnelly and Muratore bills, telling the committee she had worked with people who were mentally ill and experienced a symptom of psychosis that made them unaware of their own illnesses, including one man who jumped off the Tobin Bridge to his death within a month of his discharge from an inpatient unit.

"We shouldn't wait for the next tragedy due to a lack of assisted outpatient treatment," she said.

Massachusetts has procedures in place that allow courts to order mental health treatment. A person can be involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility if they are mentally ill and facing a likelihood of serious harm without a commitment, and there is no appropriate, less restrictive setting. Under what is known as Rogers guardianship, a Probate and Family Court judge can appoint a guardian to authorize "extraordinary medical treatment," such as antipsychotic medication, for a person deemed unable to make informed decisions.

According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, Massachusetts is one of five states that do not authorize involuntary treatment in the community, also known as assisted outpatient treatment.

Susan Fendell, a senior attorney with the Mental Health Legal Advisors Committee, said methods of "coercive" outpatient treatment may have unintended consequences, like causing people to eschew treatment altogether or avoid the people who make up their support systems, out of fear loved ones will put them into treatment.

"I don't think that we need to get to the point of having court proceedings if we are offering people options that are palatable to them," Fendell said. "And I think a lot of the problem is that our mental health system has relied too heavily on limited options, or even the options that are there are not available. We hear all the time about people waiting for [Department of Mental Health] housing. We hear all the time about people waiting to see a therapist. The problem is that we're not funding services that people would accept voluntarily."

Several speakers touted peer support services as potential alternatives. Thomas Brown, who described himself as a "survivor of really extreme physical and sexual violence" who first attempted suicide at 11, said he was over-medicated for years until finding therapists and psychopharmacologists who worked with him instead of engaging in a "top-down" treatment approach.

"What really finally helped more than anything was finding peer support," said Brown, who is now trained as a peer specialist. "When I found peer support I stopped wanting to die."

Trauma Training with Thomas Brown

Monday, February 12th, 9 to 5pm @ RLC’s Bowen Center, 235 Chestnut Street, Springfield

This training on trauma explores a non-clinical definition of trauma created by a survivor of extreme traumatic experience. The training looks at how and why trauma becomes locked within the body and the effects unresolved trauma has on the mind. The training explores behaviors and thinking patterns related to unresolved traumatic experience and offers ways of freeing ourselves from the confines of traumatic experiences.  The training explores the heightened vulnerability to experiencing trauma by being a  member of a minority group.

Click HERE for a flyer to share!

Space is limited. Sign up required at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. We have applied for LCSW & LMHC Continuing Ed Credits.  Pizza and salad will be provided for lunch.

thomas headWho is Thomas?: Thomas Brown, M.Ed, is a leading trauma educator. He teaches trauma studies from a combined lived experience and academic research perspective at various universities and institutions including Harvard, Tufts, and McLean Hospital. He also serves as a trainer in the state’s Certified Peer Specialist program, and works full-time as a peer specialist at bay Cove Human Services in Boston where he trains all staff in trauma-informed approaches.


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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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