Wednesday, 12 August 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.


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

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!



Registration & Login for Website Users