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Tuesday, 11 December 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.

 

10 things you might not have known about SSI/SSDI, Rep-Payeeships and more!

1. You don’t need to go to a Social Security office to get income verification information: Social Security offices are busy and have less staff than in the past. As a result, they WANT you to have other ways to get the information you need. Here’s the easiest way to get your info: Go to www.ssa.gov and set up an account (look for ‘My Account’ on the front page)! You’ll need your name (as it appears on your social security card), your social security information and the answers to a few questions to verify your identity, but from there you should be able to access information and print out income verification as needed. (Note: It is not okay for anyone to set up an account in your name (including rep-payees) even with your permission.

2. There isa way to keep receiving your full SSI benefit amount while hospitalized:   Typically, when someone becomes hospitalized, their benefit amount is automatically reduced to $72.80. This is based on the belief that most of their basic needs (food, shelter, etc.) are being taken care of within that hospital and is an effort to   prevent having the government pay for those needs twice. HOWEVER, if a doctor is able to certify to Social Security that the person hospitalized is likely to be discharged within 90 days and they need the full SSI amount to maintain their community living quarters so that they have a place to go when they are released, they are able to keep receiving the full amount. The same goes for public hospitals where the SSI amount would be reduced to $0.

3. Young people who have been in DCF custody can re-apply for Masshealth when they are about to age out of DCF, and—REGARDLESS OF INCOME—they will automatically be eligible for Masshealth until they are 26.  Here’s a good resource to learn more about healthcare options and resources: https://www.hcfama.org/

4. If you have a representative payee (someone who manages funds received from social security on your behalf), they are NOT allowed to withhold your funds as punishment or ‘incentive’ to get you to do (or not do) certain things.: In other words, it is not okay for a representative payee to withhold your spending money if you do not take your psychiatric medications. Nor is it okay for them to ‘reward’ you with your own funds if you do all your assigned chores, take your meds, clean your room, etc. (This doesn’t mean that rep-payees can’t limit amounts given for       spending money for other reason, such as a belief that you won’t reasonably be able to manage spending it.)

5. Even if you have a representative payee, you are still personally responsible for reporting your own income: Having a Representative Payee means that Social Security has deemed that you need support to use your Social Security funds in a way that is sure to meet your basic needs. However, you still have responsibilities. Even if your Representative Payee fails to report income you make from other sources (a job, etc.), you will still be held responsible.

6. Even if you have a Representative Payee, you still have a right to see all notices from Social Security. Just because someone else is receiving Social Security funds on your behalf, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t required to be kept fully informed. All notices should be getting sent to you (unless you have a guardian) AND the rep-payee.

7. Rep-payeeship ONLY applies to social security funds (SSDI or SSI), NOT to food stamps, work income or any other money or benefit. You are NOT required to turn over your food stamps, money earned at work or any other   income to a representative payee. Their only authority is over your Social Security funds.

8. If you are seeking to end a rep-payeeship and be in charge of your own money, a doctor is NOT the only one who can help you make that happen. Often people are told that the only way to end having a representative payee is to get a doctor to write a letter to Social Security stating that you are now able to   manage your funds. In truth, letters can come from anyone. While letters that come from people in professional roles will be seen as holding more weight, those people can be social workers, therapists, and so on. Remember, the most important piece is likely to be highlighting what has changed since a rep-payee was assigned.

9. If you have a rep-payee, they MUST keep your funds separate from their own at all times. In other words, a separate bank account should be maintained specifically for your social security funds. Your funds may never be deposited and held in another person’s bank account.

10. The most important thing for you to do is open Social Security notices as you get them and to KEEP everything you receive! Often, notices come with time limits to appeal decisions. Also, if you need to seek help from someone else to understand what’s happened, having all your notices on hand can make ALL the difference!

Check out the Program Operations Manual System (POMS) for all you could ever want to know about Social Security:

https://secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/home!readform

Talking About Suicide

Talking About Suicide
by RLC Advocate, Currie Murphy
Appeared originally in the Greenfield Recorder, 8/29/14
 
For me, it's hard to believe that people can't sit with the word "suicide", and I often find myself asking them why it is so hard? Usually I am met with resistance and anger or a befuddled look on their faces. After a few minutes of explaining why I like to ask this question to as many people as possible, we get into a place of real conversation. One that is frowned on in everyday society. From a young age, people are told the word "suicide" is taboo and never to be uttered unless to someone trained to handle suicidal people. Are we creating a society of children who are taught to fear the word suicide? Is it our own fear that is creating this culture of silence? How do we change the fear response to the word "suicide."?
 
This conversation is happening in western Massachusetts communities. The Alternatives to Suicide Peer Support Groups are places where people can come together and support each other around suicide without fear of judgment, or being locked up, or drugged against their will. Traditionally, if a person is feeling suicidal and seeks medical help they would be told these feelings are not OK or "normal" and we must do whatever it takes to stop them. We are a group of people trying to change the way society looks at and approaches someone who has thoughts of suicide. Instead of making them feel ashamed or alone, we give the space for people to express the thoughts and feelings to empathic ears. And if want, we share our own lived experience with suicide and how we moved through the difficult times.
 
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
e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

What's Mine is Mine: Your Right to Your Own Belongings

Do people staying in Department of Mental Health (DMH) programs (residential programs, DMH beds in respite, etc.) have a right to their personal belongings?The short answer is, ‘Yes.’No I Say When2

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.)
To many of us, it seems obvious that adults have a right to their own personal property, even when others feel they have ‘misbehaved’ in some way or are doing something that does not represent the best judgment. Fortunately, that perspective is also supported on paper and in law, too.
 
In the Department of Mental Health Human Rights Handbook, it clearly states the following:
 
“Every client has the right to his/her own possessions, barring a threat to client safety.
Massachusetts law affords clients the right to keep and use their own personal possessions, including toilet articles, and to have access to client storage spaces for private use.”

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 )

to read the rest of this article, click "read more" below

Peer Art Series: Life Systems

Peer Art Series 2013 LEFTArtist’s ReceptionPeer Art Series 2013 RIGHT

Friday, October 25th, 6-8pm

74 Federal Street, Greenfield

Featuring the works of our local artists,

Andy Grant and Jessica Star

 

Light refreshments served! For more info, call 413.772.0715

And While You’re in the Area…

While you’re visiting us for the art reception, consider stopping in next door at the RPX (One Osgood Street) where the Salasin Project/Family Fun Center will be hosting their Fall Festival. The festival will begin at 12pm and include Journey Dance, poetry readings, art and more. They will finish out the evening with an open mic night from 6 to 8pm!

Visit www.salasinwomenscenter.org for more details!

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:

 

www.surveymonkey.com/s/language_survey99

survey.monkey

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.
 
lunch3

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

 

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