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.
Forced Outpatient Commitment (commonly referred to as ‘Assisted Outpatient Treatment’ or ‘AOT’) is a type of law allowing for individuals to be forced to take psychiatric medications, attend therapy, etc. against their will, even when living in the community. Massachusetts is currently one of only a small handful of states that have refused to implement this type of law. However, in a devastating blow to local advocates, an ‘AOT Pilot’ was ordered. The decision read as follows:
“The department shall expend not less than $250,000 to develop and implement an assisted outpatient treatment pilot program to treat residents who suffer from serious and persistent mental illness and experience repeated interaction with law enforcement or have a high rate of recurring hospitalization due to their mental illness, either through a voluntary agreement with the resident or by court order mandating that the resident receive the treatment described in this program; provided further, that the department shall report not later than June 1, 2015, to the house and senate committees on ways and means and the joint committee on mental health and substance abuse the progress and results of the pilot program and any identified barriers and challenges to treatment for the aforementioned treatment group.”
People who have experienced psychiatric diagnosis, been hospitalized, or overcome other major life challenges and who now work or are connected to peer support communities often see themselves as a part of a movement. We’ve heard that movement be called everything from a ‘peer movement,’ to a ‘recovery movement’ to a ‘consumer’ or ‘c/s/x movement.’ (c/s/x stands for ‘consumer/survivor/ex-patient.’) However, all of these frames fall a little bit short.
Our work is a part of something bigger than all that. Yes, our work is about personal healing and moving toward a better life as individuals.
But it is also about oppression, choice, rights and the interconnectedness of all of our human spirits. It is difficult to imagine personal healing without consideration of how others are being treated, or hurt or supported (or not) to have full lives. In fact, much healing has happened in our community precisely by being connected in that way and calling on each other to stop hurting one another and raise each other up.
In truth, our movement is a human rights movement.
What does this mean? It means we not only stand with others who have experienced psychiatric diagnosis, trauma and so on, but also with people who have been wounded and oppressed because of the color of their skin, their gender expression, their sexuality, income, physical abilities and so on. It means our movement seeks to move toward healing and wholeness for anyone who has struggled or been hurt for any reason, not just those who have been challenged by emotional and/or mental distress and/or received services within the mental health system. This is true whether we ourselves have felt good or bad about our experiences (or a mix thereof) in the system, and whether we see our problems as coming from within or outside of our bodies.
It means that when juries failed to indict Darren Wilson or Daniel Pantaleo for the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, we all were wounded in some way. It means that, on November 20th—the national Transgender Day of Remembrance in recognition of all those who have been killed as a result of transphobia—we all were called upon to stand together. These are just two examples of the many.
Where to Find Local Alternatives to Suicide Peer Support Groups:
Mondays, 6:30– 8pm @ Friend’s Meeting House, 43 Center Street, Northampton
Tuesdays, 5– 6:30pm @ RLC’s Greenfield Center, 74 Federal Street, Greenfield
Fridays, 2:30-4pm @ RLC’s Springfield (Bowen) Center, 340 Main Street, Springfield
For more information, call 413.539.5941 x 318 or
Nonetheless, we’ve heard multiple stories of people losing access (or having access substantially limited) to their personal belongings in the last week alone. When we hear these sorts of complaints, the two most frequent justifications that programs have offered include:
- House-wide behavioral plans that people reportedly agree to when they move in
- General health concerns (e.g., someone drinks “too much soda,” etc.)
That statement in the DMH handbook is footnoted as having been drawn from Massachusetts General Law Chapter 123, Section 23 which reads:
“… a mentally ill person in the care of the department shall have the following legal and civil rights: to wear his own clothes, to keep and use his own personal possessions including toilet articles, to keep and be allowed to spend a reasonable sum of his own money for canteen expenses and small purchases, to have access to individual storage space for his private use, to refuse shock treatment, to refuse lobotomy, and any other rights specified in the regulations of the department; provided, however, that any of these rights may be denied for good cause by the superintendent or his designee and a statement of the reasons for any such denial entered in the treatment record of such person.” (www.malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleXVII/Chapter123/Section23 )
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