Welcome to the Western Mass Recovering 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, addiction and other life-interrupting challenges through:
- Peer-to-peer support & genuine human relationships
- Alternative Healing Practices
- Learning Opportunities
Essential to our work is recognizing and undoing systemic injustices such as racism, sexism, transphobia 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 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.
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.
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!).
On Monday, August 1, more than 140 people from all around Massachusetts gathered at the Boston Globe’s offices in Dorchester to protest their ‘Spotlight on Mental Health’ series, and hold a vigil for the many lives lost to restraint, seclusion and police responses in situations with people who were in emotional distress. The main point of the protest was to speak out against the sensationalized series that painted people with psychiatric diagnoses as violent and dangerous.
Over 600 names of people lost were read aloud, and their laminated cards and flowers were left on Boston Globe property to represent each individual named. Several Boston Globe employees also came out to speak with protesters, and learn more about their perspective, including Globe Editor, Brian McGrory and Spotlight Editor, Scott Allen.
Protesters arrived with several demands, including an apology from the Boston Globe and a retraction of a recent pro-force editorial. When the Globe did not agree to these demands, about a dozen of the protesters carried out a plan to stand on the front steps of the Globe until they were heard or arrested. This plan was carried out between 5 and 6pm, and most of the protesters on the steps were arrested and released on their own recognizance later that night.
Overall, this was a very well attended and successful action, heavily supported by our own Western Mass community, and we look forward to next steps!