Monday, 21 September 2020

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.


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

The Right to Smoke?

Originally published in the RLC Newsletter, October, 2012

The Right to Smoke?

At this point, we all know the risks of smoking. We’ve heard about (and perhaps seen play out) the link to cancer and a variety of other health issues. We’re aware of the highly addictive nature of nicotine. Many of us cigarettesalso know that a higher percentage of people receiving services within the mental health system seem to smoke than those in the broader community, and that those same people tend to smoke more cigarettes on average than other smokers. Additionally, we’ve been told that smoking plays a major role in the fact that people in the mental health system die, on average, 25 years younger than most (although the role that psychiatric medications play in that same figure is most often ignored or misrepresented).

But what does that mean and more importantly, whatshouldthat mean about the right of people receiving mental health services to smoke and the role and responsibilities of providers in relationship to that question? 

In Western Massachusetts, there are at least 10 hospitals that have in-patient psychiatric units. Only one of those 10 (Holyoke Medical) still allows people hospitalized there to smoke at all during their stay. That means that someone hospitalized against their will – who is already likely experiencing great loss and distress – also loses the freedom to smoke. This point is not to be minimized. Pause for a moment and imagine the sense of loss and trauma you might experience when being removed from your day-to-day life unexpectedly and not by your own choice.

This approach is only gaining steam. In August, one of the local providers of Community Based Flexible Supports (CBFS) also announced that they would begin a new policy of not hiring smokers (even those who smoke only in the privacy of their own home) as of January 2013 in large part because their employees reportedly have a responsibility to ‘role model’ healthy behavior. (Similar policies for people receiving services through CBFS have been suggested but not yet come to pass.)

Read more: The Right to Smoke?

Mandated Reporter: A Common Misconception

Originally published in the RLC Newsletter, December, 2012


There is a popular misunderstanding that ‘mandated reported’ means that you are mandated by law to report if someone is talking about hurting themselves or someone else. This is not true. ‘Mandated reporter’ refers to the legal requirement of many professions and organizations to report observed or suspected abuse or neglect of someone who is considered elderly, disabled or a child by a care giver. While organizations may still have clear policies for their employees around reporting perceived risks of self-harm or hurting others, that is an organizational decision and not a black-and-white legal mandate outside of the organization’s control as is the ‘mandated reporter’ law.

What does this mean? It means there IS a potential discussion to be had within your organization about what their policies say regarding the need to report suspected risk of harm. For example, does this include when someone seems at risk of non-lethal self-harm like cutting or burning? Does it include situations where someone says they are suicidal, but upon further conversation, you find they are just venting or wanting to be heard? The reality is that many people who have received services within the mental health system have learned to use words like ‘suicide’ to get their needs met, and sometimes it can be genuinely valuable to simply ask them what that means to them, rather than jumping to an emergency intervention. Similarly, it can be really valuable to recognize many types of self-injury as a way someone has learned to cope with trauma and pain that is separate from suicide, and does not require an emergency intervention.


Check in with your co-workers and organizational leadership. It’s worth a conversation!

A Word on the Word 'Peer'

Originally published in the RLC Newsletter, June, 2012


According to www.dictionary.com, the word ‘peer’ is defined as follows: “a person who is equal to another in abilities, qualifications, age, background, and social status.” By that definition and as it peershas boiled down in our world to its most common usage, most of us have several ‘peer’ groups. Parents, doctors, students, authors, actors, nurses, artists, politicians, baseball players… all are one another’s peers. More importantly, in order to be a ‘peer,’ by definition, one person quite literally has to be connected to another. There is no such thing as a ‘peer’ standing alone, because then, well… whose peer are they?

Strange then, that – within the mental health system and recovery movement – we should be taking on this word ‘peer,’ as if it is the next best word for patient, client, consumer, ‘person served,’ participant, and/or member. It’s strange for two reasons. The first is that no ‘peer’ should be able to stand alone. There should be no such thing as ‘a peer,’ unless there is another ‘peer’ standing next to him or her. No person should be able to talk about ‘the peers’ as some group separate from themselves because it is antithetical to the very meaning of the word. Peer does not mean ‘someone receiving services.’ It means people who exist as a part of a community of some sort and who share commonalities and relationships with one another. It’s ‘my peers’ or ‘our peers,’ if it’s ‘peer’ at all. It’s stranger still because – in this work of recovery and ‘peer work,’ – we talk so often about how healing through relationship is at the core of what we do. And yet, in essence, we have begun to refer to ourselves by a word that originally was all about relationship and now, through our very usage of it, has lost that relational focus.

And so, before we go beyond the point of no return with our usage of this word, we encourage everyone to consider the impact and to remember that, if we use the word as it is defined, no ‘peer’ can stand alone.



Registration & Login for Website Users