Tuesday, 23 October 2018



What's Going on at SAMHSA (And Why You Should Care)

On Friday, April 21st, Trump’s nominee for the 'Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use in the Department of Health and Human Services' was announced: Elinore McCance-Katz. The position McCance-Katz would be filling is a new one, created by the version of Tim Murphy’s ‘Helping Families in Crisis’ act (also known as the ‘Murphy Bill’) that got slipped in and approved with the ‘21st Century Cures’ act a few months back. This position would essentially put her in charge of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration known more commonly as ‘SAMHSA’. 
Some of her stated priorities include:
  • Increase the number of inpatient psychiatric beds
  • Reconfigure health privacy laws to give families access to information about individuals deemed 'severely mentally ill'
  • Reevaluate federal funding for suicide hotlines and peer support
McCance-Katz, who previously served as the Chief Medical Officer at SAMHSA, has spoken out openly in favor of measures like <b>Involuntary Outpatient Commitment</b> (also known as ‘Assisted Outpatient Treatment’ or AOT, basically boiling down to force, including forced drugging that can even occur in people’s own homes). 
She has also opposed many criticisms of psychiatric drugs, even in the face of a growing scientific body of evidence that their efficacy (and potentially damaging effects) are well worth being questioned.  She even comes with the strong recommendation of DJ Jaffee, founder of  mentalillnesspolicy.org and enemy to all things peer-support-related. 
Interestingly, Murphy has spoken out against</I> McCance-Katz’s nomination. And, as much as we’d like to agree with Murphy that she’s not ‘the one’, Murphy only has even more damaging recommendations waiting in the wings. Fortunately, the Western Mass RLC is not funded through SAMHSA or federal funds, but it does appear that dark times loom ahead for SAMHSA, and it’s likely to trickle down to us one way or another. 
Involuntary Outpatient Commitment in Massachusetts? Reduction of access to peer supports  (or threats to the integrity of these important roles)? Budget cuts for some of the country's most innovative efforts?All of it could be headed our way.
Stay tuned for more updates as this all develops, and check out this blog by David Oaks for more details while you wait: Trump Appoints Leader Who Campaigned for Involuntary Outpatient Drugging

DMH Info

The 'Requestion for Information' (RFI) document from the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health relating to the future design of what are now called Community Based Flexible Supports (CBFS) is available here:


Your response must be submitted This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) no later than noon on June 2nd.

Please be reminded that you do NOT need to answer all questions. Below are some suggested talking points, if you are interested in responding to the question about peer roles.

Historically, DMH has not offered any guidelines clear guidelines as to the formation or operation of peer roles in any state-funded contract. This is a key opportunity to ask them to offer a much clearer framework and requirements that will protect the integrity of these roles which—at present– are often left unsupported or misused. Here are some talking points that we encourage you to consider for inclusion in your feedback. As a part of bidding on and describing implementation of the new model contracts, all providers should be required to explain:

  • How they will adhere to the Massachusetts Certified Peer Specialist (CPS) Code of Ethics in implementation and ongoing support of all peer roles
  • How they will provide direct supervisors that have (ideally) trained and worked in peer roles themselves and/or (minimally) have gone through an approved supervision training specific to supervising peer roles.
  • How they will protect the integrity of the peer role by avoiding assignment of tasks that would violate the CPS Code of Ethics or integrity of the peer role or otherwise substantially shift its focus including any involvement in the Medication Administration Program, acting as a rep-payee or any other form of controlling someone’s money, or writing routine, person-specific notes.
  • How they will support all peer employees to continue their education (a requirement of the CPS code of ethics) through trainings that are specific to peer support, including a requirement that they support ongoing access to trainings outside of the organization itself (given no traditional provider is adequately equipped to provide ongoing peer-specific training).
  • How they will build a peer support team (which may include assignment to particular parts of the organization, but ultimately retains primary team membership with the peer team itself) within the organization.
  • How they will support (paid) networking opportunities for their peer employees with people working in peer roles in
  • How, in small organizations with less than 5 FTEs dedicated to peer roles, they’ll put in place additional supports, connections, and/or affiliations (e.g., with RLC, etc.) to help prevent isolation from peer support colleagues.
  • How their peer support job descriptions are clearly differentiated from other organizational roles and consistent with the previous points in this document (with sample job descriptions required to be submitted with the bid)
  • How the ratio of peer support FTEs to number of individuals receiving services will be determined, and explain why that is sufficient.
  • How they will develop a retention plan specific to peer supporters that includes the above points, as well as pay rates that recognize their expertise (should not be seen as the same as or lower than entry level direct support roles), and training plans to get the organization up-to-speed on understanding peer roles (so that it is less of a hostile work environment for those individuals working in those roles).

Remember: Opportunities to shift how DMH is defining and asking providers to implement peer roles does not come around often. Don’t let this chance to get heard pass you by!!!

More information that may be relevant to your feedback on peer roles can be found here:

Declaration of Peer Roles

Handbook on Peer Roles

Survivor Theater Presents: A Beautiful Anger

ROAAARRR! A Beautiful Anger

Thursday, May 18, 2017 @ 6:30pm

Holyoke City Hall


On Thursday, May 18th, 2017 at 6:30pm at Holyoke City Hall, Womanshelter/Compañeras and Survivor Theatre Project (STP) are coming together to create a community space for survivors and allies to experience a powerful performance of “ROAAARRR! A Beautiful Anger” and engage in open dialogue about the cycles of violence in the western Massachusetts area. This evening, we will join in community to uplift a message of resistance and resilience for survivors of domestic and sexual abuse.

STP’s Touring Company performance, “ROAAARRR! A Beautiful Anger” is a show that connects music, percussive rhythms, spoken word, and raw emotion to encourage audiences to reflect on how sexual violence survivors thrive in a world that attempts to silence our rage. Womanshelter/Compañeras Community Educator, Carmen Nieves shared that “our collaboration with STP is an extension of our mission to bring awareness and healing to communities. STP is not just a valued partner, they enrich and enhance the work that Womanshelter/Compañeras does."

Tickets at the door on a sliding scale, no one will be turned away for lack of funds. No advance tickets. For event information contact STP Company Manager at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Performance Description: A collection of poetry, rhythm, monologue and movement that ruptures the confines of victimhood and illuminates a spirit that cannot be broken. In a society struggling with sexual violence as an epidemic, these survivors define what true protection means, and galvanize our communities from art to action. A collection of poetry, rhythm, monologue and movement that ruptures the confines of victimhood and illuminates a spirit that cannot be broken. In a society struggling with sexual violence as an epidemic, these survivors define what true protection means, and galvanize our communities from art to action.

“ROAAARRR! A Beautiful Anger” is produced by Survivor Theatre Project, created by the Survivor Theatre Project Touring Company: Barbara, Kaia, Monique & Vero. Music & Direction by Iréne Shaikly.

Survivor Theatre Project’s 2017 Tour is sponsored by Cambridge Arts Council, the Cambridge Women’s Center, Holyoke Cultural Council, & the Massachusetts Cultural Council. And in partnership with Enchanted Circle Theatre, Mental Health Association, Inc., Western Mass Recovery Learning Community, & Womanshelter/Compañeras.

The Boston Globe’s Mental Health Series: A Pulitzer At Our Expense

In April the 2017 Pulitzer Prize Award winners were announced. Fortunately, the Boston Globe was not among them. However, sadly, they were a finalist for their Spotlight Team’s ‘The Desperate and the Dead’ series.

For anyone unfamiliar, the ‘Desperate and the Dead’ is a 7-part series (with additional articles framed as ‘follow-ups’) that took a close look at the Massachusetts Mental Health System. Unfortunately, they did so in the most degrading, sensationalized way possible, always including graphic stories of violence and misusing statistics to   re-enforce their points.

Additionally, in spite of the applause they earned from some corners, they really brought nothing new to the conversation. Most notably, they almost completely ignored the voice of anyone who has ever received services from that system, including over 100 such individuals who showed up on their front doorstep in protest.

This series has hurt us. Any applause (or award nominations) they receive is on our backs and at our expense. It is well past time for us time for us to create our own media, and to do our best to disrupt the mainstream messages out there. If you are someone who is a confident writer, it’s time to start sending more letters to the editor any time such an article rises up, or to try your hand at getting an editorial published. If you prefer, collaborate with people at your local Recovery Learning Community (or other group or organization) to make videos that can be circulated on the web or maybe even Public Access television. And, if you’re a provider or other person in this community who wishes to be an ally, learn to use your credibility to raise our voices and/or echo our messages.

At the end of March, the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team added a ‘follow-up’ article to the series called, “A depleted state system fails many with mental illness”. The Western Mass RLC’s Sera Davidow responded with part 6 of a series of articles responding directly to the Globe called, “Dear Boston Globe, Part VI: Congratulations. Bad Things Happen.”  You can check out that response HERE. We hope it will move you to write one of your own!


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  • The Murphy Bills and Beyond

    In June of 2015, Representative Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania re-introduced the "Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act" (HR 2646), better known as the Murphy Bill.  A month later, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut introduced a very similar bill in the Senate called the "Mental Health Reform Act of 2015" (S2680).  Both pieces of legislation threatened to dramatically increase the use of force and dismantle many of the more progressive and healing alternatives that have been developed in recent years. As of November 2016 the fate of both bills remained uncertain.

    Meanwhile, another piece of legislation called 21st Century Cures was in development and garnering increasing bipartisan support. A sweeping and expansive healthcare bill, 21st Century Cures was, initially, minimally focused on mental health provisions. Having been stalled in part due to resistance from Senate Democrats' concerns that the bill was dangerously empowering for the pharmaceutical industry, 21st Century Cures also faced an uncertain fate in November. However, the election of President Trump and consequent fears for the bill’s fate prompted a reworking of the bill that also included the absorption of many aspects of HR 2646, “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis.”

    21st Century Cures was passed by the House and Senate on November 30th and December 7th of last year, respectively. On December 13, 21st Century Cures (now including substantial portions drawn directly from HR 2646, "Helping Familties in Mental Health Crisis") was signed into law by President Obama. 



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