Monday, 30 November 2020

Guiding Council of Western Mass

Our Present, Our Past, Our Future



Our Present:

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 psychiatric 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 themselves has personally experienced those sorts of life-interrupting challenges described in our mission statement (trauma, psychiatric diagnosis, homelessness, problems with substance use, etc.), or who is a friend, family member or ally to the RLC and our work, 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 12:30pm to 2pm. (The meeting typically 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 can be scheduled upon request by e-mailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Current Council Delegates:

Hampshire County

Bill Sorel

Marsha Morris

Margo McMahon


Hampden County

Douglas Arnold

Gail Hornstein

Marcu "DJ Marco" Andre


Berkshire County

Jennifer Gorson


Franklin County

Carol Star


Our Past:

GCOW formed in the summer of 2005 as an independent body made up exclusively of individuals with first-hand experience within the mental health system. At that time - based on years of advocacy from individuals with psychiatric histories - 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 or 40 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, Janice Sorensen, Oryx Cohen 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 Director, Sera Davidow.


Our Future:

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 typically individuals who identify as having first-hand experience (with psychiatric diagnosis, trauma, homelessness, problems with substances, etc.) 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. Allies are also welcome, though GCOW aims to maintain a majority of individuals who identify as having first-hand experience. 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 considered throughout the year based on vacancies and will be asked to commit to however much of the year is remaining up to August.) They also must be able to check e-mail on a semi-regular basis (at least a couple of times per month) in order to read/respond to GCOW e-mails in between meetings.

If you are interested in applying to be a Council Delegate, please complete the application below or send an inquiry to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (413) 539-5941 ext. 203.











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