Our Present, Our Past, Our Future
The Guiding Council of Western Massachusetts (GCOW) serves as the advisory board to the Western Mass RLC. It is made up primarily of individuals who have lived experience with mental health diagnoses, extreme states and/or trauma who live and/or work in our region. GCOW members gather every month to represent each county of Western Mass and hold the 'big picture' of the RLC's development, helping to shape its direction and growth.
All GCOW meetings are open to anyone from the community who has lived experience or who is a friend, family member or ally to the RLC and recovery movement, although only Council Delegates are able to participate in any formal votes. Meetings generally take place at the RLC's Holyoke Center on the first Monday of each month from 1 to 3pm. (The meeting automatically moves to the 2nd Monday of the month in the event of a holiday or snow day on the first.) Confirmed dates for each GCOW meeting are listed in the monthly calendar.
American Sign Language interpreters are routinely scheduled, though will be canceled if no one who is deaf or hard-of-hearing confirms that they will be in attendance.
Current Council Delegates:
Hampshire County –
Margo McMahon (Founding Member)
Hampden County –
Margaret Osei (Founding Member)
Berkshire County –
Bonnie Jones (Founding Member)
Franklin County –
GCOW formed in the summer of 2006 as an independent body made up exclusively of individuals with lived experience. At that time - based on years of advocacy from individuals within the recovery movement - the Department of Mental Health (DMH) was giving serious consideration to funding the formation of peer-run communities. The Transformation Center encouraged and supported GCOW to form in Western Mass to ensure that the recovery community would have a strong voice in how those peer-run communities came together.
GCOW gained momentum quickly, often having as many as 30 individuals in attendance at their meetings. They took time to develop vision, create what are now the Western Mass RLC's Defining Principles and interview organizations with whom to partner when DMH was ready to accept proposals.
In the fall of 2006, after interviewing four candidates, GCOW selected The Western Mass Training Consortium as their partnering agency. Together, they responded to DMH's request for proposals for the creation of the first Recovery Learning Communities that same winter, with GCOW always in the lead of the visioning process.
When the RLC grant for Western Mass was officially awarded to The Consortium in May of 2007, GCOW transitioned into its current role as the advisory board to the RLC.
This grassroots process involved in the formation of GCOW and its impact on the development of the Western Mass RLC is unique and core to the roots the RLC's mission and true purpose.
We would like to thank our founding members of GCOW for all their work and for helping us make history! Founding GCOW members included:
Cheryl Stevens, Shelly Bowen (in whose honor the Bowen Resource Center is now named), Patrick Austin, Linda Rost, Margo McMahon, Gayle Kushner, Karran Larson, John Paul Whiting, Deborah Duncan, Karen Lowe, Marcia Webster, Mary Rives, Margaret Osei, June Kaz, Carol Ritter, Bonnie Jones, Chaya Grossberg and many others who took part in all the hard work and joys of building the foundation upon which the RLC has grown.
Founding members of GCOW also included current RLC workers, Oryx Cohen, Sera Davidow and Janice Sorensen.
GCOW is in need of new Council Delegates!
It is GCOW's goal to have a minimum of two and up to four Council Delegates representing each county of Western Mass. Council Delegates are individuals who identify as having lived experience and who are able to commit to attending GCOW meetings on a monthly basis to represent their county and have a voice in how the RLC moves forward. When a formal vote is needed to solidify GCOW's recommendations to the RLC, Council Delegates are also the only ones able to vote.
Council Delegates generally make a commitment of one year beginning in September and ending in August. (New members are accepted throughout the year based on vacancies and will be asked to commit to however much of the year is remaining up to August.)