Tuesday, 20 March 2018

RLC Articles

The RLC produces a newsletter each and every month that offers monthly calendars, announcements and articles. Although old newsletters are archived on the website, the articles - often on important advocacy-related issues - run the risk of being buried and difficult to find. In an attempt to make that information more accessible, we still also list RLC-published articles from the newsletter (and other relevant sources) here for your ease and perusal.


There’s No Such Thing as ‘TAY’

There’s no such thing as ‘TAY.’ Well, okay, that’s not entirely true. Apparently, Tay is a river running through parts of Scotland. Tay also seems to be the name of a skincare line. There’s even a Tay Township in Canada. But what on earth is ‘TAY’ in the context of the American mental health system?

TAY, of course, stands for ‘Transitional Age Youth.’ As such, whole groups of people between the ages of 16 and 25 (or thereabouts) get boiled down into the ‘TAY population,’ or even just, ‘the TAY.’   Likewise, places intended for young people in the mental health system sometimes get boiled down into ‘TAY centers,’ or ‘TAY programs.’

 This is but one of the more recent signs of a disturbing, long-term trend to boil people down into labels that are clearly tied to the fact that they have been given a psychiatric diagnosis and are considered a ‘consumer’ of state mental health services. However, we need to keep asking ourselves, ‘What’s the point of this habit?” And, “What impact does it have on the people that we label in that way?”

 The reality is that some people won’t be bothered by any label you give them. They may even get annoyed when you bring the topic up, and see it as a waste of time. However, for others, it will feel really hard to be talked about as an object or a thing. Some may take that label on as their identity and may ultimately be held back from moving forward and beyond the system as a result. There are many possible results, but perhaps the most important question should be: Who on earth would ever be HELPED by being referred to as a ‘TAY’? And, if there is no good answer to that, then we need to continue to find a different way to talk about one another.

 This conversation is not really about the acronym-turned-word, ‘TAY.’ It’s about all the labels of the system and how we are encouraged to talk and think about one another and ourselves. In our effort to move this conversation forward, we have created a brief survey seeking your opinion on words in the system that hurt and how we can make change and move forward together. This survey will be available through the end of 2013 and EVERYONE (people who have or are receiving mental health services, people working in the system, doctors, families, friends, etc.) is encouraged to participate and share the survey with others. You can find the survey here:




Having Lunch with the Pharmaceutical Companies

Last month, during a break at a ‘Withdrawing from Medication’ workshop we held in Holyoke, someone approached one of us to express disappointment that so few people came to an RLC outreach presentation at the provider agency where that person worked. She explained that lots of clinicians show up at pharmaceutical presentations because they provide expensive lunches that people enjoy. She suggested that perhaps we ought to consider offering another presentation to her organization with lunch included, as well. What did we think?
For better or worse, we don’t have the budget to offer lunches with our outreach presentations, and it also would make many of us uncomfortable to start competing with pharmaceutical companies or replicating their methods. In that conversation, it was suggested that another path to address the issue would be for her to propose that her organization stop accepting pharmaceutical lunches. She responded flatly that she didn’t think that was going to happen. That she did not take this suggestion seriously was not her ‘fault,’ but is really quite the norm based on the expectations that have been shaped by what we’ve been told and seen around us, and that really got some of us thinking.

As we learned from presenter David Cohen at that very same presentation, pharmaceutical companies (according to statistics from 2011) spend over $10.5 billion per year on marketing for four classes of psychiatric drugs alone.

10.5 BILLION DOLLARS. At the same time, many psychiatrists acknowledge that much of their information about specific drugs comes from pharmaceutical representatives. These are the same representatives who are paid a large percent of that $10.5 billion to convince people to use their product, NOT to educate and provide unbiased information.

So, do we have a right to say no to these pharmaceutical reps and their gifts of free food and other ‘perks’? Yes, actually we do. Laws vary from state to state, but it’s worth noting that:

Read more: Having Lunch with the Pharmaceutical Companies

Mandated Reporter, Revisited

In December, 2012, we printed an article called ‘Mandated Reporter: A Common Misconception,’ in which we discussed the true definition of ‘Mandated Reporter,’ as well as the common misunderstandings around the who/what/why/where of mandated reporting responsibilities.

However, the article was brief, and since that time we’ve heard of many instances where people have continued to struggle with or have disagreements about this law and who it affects. In fact, we have heard about disagreements that involve people working in peer roles, people in provider roles and even professors at local colleges who have misunderstandings about mandated reporting! Hence, we wanted to re-visit it and offer a little more detail.

Many people believe the following MYTH: When someone talks about hurting or killing themselves or someone else, Mandated Reporters are responsible for reporting that.

This is NOT accurate.

Suicide, self-harm and harming others do not fit under the Mandated Reporter law. We will come back to this point, but first, let’s look more closely at what ‘Mandated Reporting’ *is.*

What is Mandated Reporting? Mandated Reporting refers to laws that state that people who are identified as ‘Mandated Reporters’ must report actual or suspected instances of abuse or neglect against people who are considered to be disabled, elderly (60 or older) or children (under 18) by caretakers. There are specific timeframes and places for reporting.

To Whom is abuse reported? A Mandated Reporter may report abuse to their supervisor or directly to the appropriate agency. The employee or supervisor is then responsible for reporting the abuse to the designated organization. There is a 24-hour hotline available for each group as follows:

  • Abuse/neglect of people 60 and over (Elder) – 800.922.2275
  • Abuse/neglect of people under 18 (Child) – 800.792.5200
  • Abuse/neglect of people considered disabled – 800.426.9009

What is considered ‘reportable abuse’? Reportable abuse includes physical, sexual and emotional abuse. It can also include financial abuse (misuse of a person’s funds), neglect (failure to attend to basic needs), and general mistreatment (isolation, physical and chemical restraints, and so on).

Read more: Mandated Reporter, Revisited

The Life of a Bill: The Legislative Process

Originally published in the RLC Newsletter, April, 2013

 state leg process

The length of time it takes for a bill to be proposed and passed into law can vary tremendously, but here’s some information about the basic framework:

  • New bills must be proposed on or before the 3rd Friday of January in odd numbered years
  • The House and Senate will then generally review bills that have been proposed by the deadline, form committees and assign bill numbers during the school vacation week in February.
  • For each bill, a public hearing must be held by the 3rd Wednesday in March of even numbered years, but they CAN be held any time after bill number assignment. (Most work typically happens after the year’s budget process has concluded in June.)
  • After the hearing, the relevant committee will report back and if their report supports that the bill moves forward, it will go to the House Ways and Means or Healthcare Financing Committees to evaluate budgetary impact.
  • If the bill continues to be supported, it will go to the floor of the House or Senate (whichever generated the bill) and if approved there, it will go to the other for approval.
  • If a bill makes it through every step and has been voted upon favorably by both the House and the Senate, it will go to the Governor to be passed into law or vetoed.
  • If passed by the Governor, the law will become effective 90 days after signed unless otherwise noted in the text of the ill or in an attached preamble from the House or Senate.
  • If the bill fails to go to vote or be passed for any reason, it may be refilled for consideration by the next 3rd Friday of January in the next odd numbered year.

Read more: The Life of a Bill: The Legislative Process

Relationship Happens

Originally published in the RLC Newsletter, May, 2012


janice picSo, hey, most of us know that the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community is a peer-run organization for people with “lived-experience” with extreme mental or emotional states. But can I tell you all my preferred emphasis for that little elevator speech catch phrase? It is: PEOPLE. People who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. People who have experienced trauma or depression. People whose drug use has thrown them into a whirlwind of chaos, anxiety, uncertainty, loneliness and depression. People who have experience any number of life struggles. People like me and perhaps, you.

Here’s what the RLC believes: We believe that individuals who have lived experience with a psychiatric diagnosis and/or extreme states can and do recover. We believe that people are the experts of their own experience and that a great deal of wisdom is gained on the path to recovery. We believe in offering trauma-informed supports that include asking, “What happened to you,” rather than, “What’s wrong with you?” We believe that support from individuals who have “been there” can be powerful, inspirational and life-changing. We believe in everybody’s potential to achieve his or her dreams.

What comes to mind when I write this out is how inherent relationship and intimacy are to these beliefs, and how vital communication is to both. Without relationship and intimacy there is no community, there is no shared support. Without clear, honest, empathetic communication there is no, well, relationship and intimacy.

Read more: Relationship Happens

Five Fundamental Rights

Originally published in RLC Newsletter, September, 2012


Did you know that according to Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 123, Section 23, you have five fundamental rights that apply any time you are receiving services from any program or hospital unit that is operated by, licensed by or contracting Human-Has-Rights-798799with the Department of Mental Health?? (This includes state and private hospitals, community mental health centers and residential programs.)


* Reasonable access to a telephones to make and receive confidential calls

Examples of common violations: Pay phones unless change is provided, phones in hallways or common areas, phones that are turned off throughout the day

* The ability to send and receive sealed, unopened, uncensored mail

Examples of common violations: Mail is opened and checked without due cause, writing materials and postage are not provided in reasonable quantities

* The ability to receive visitors of own choosing in private, at reasonable times, with limitations only to protect the privacy of other persons and to avoid serious disruptions to the normal functioning, with sufficient flexibility as to accommodate individual needs and desires of the person receiving services AND the visitors of that person.

Read more: Five Fundamental Rights


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