The Western Mass Recovery Learning Community (RLC) creates conditions that support healing and growth for individuals and the community as a whole through learning opportunities, advocacy, peer-to-peer support and the development of regional and national networks.
Our community is made up of many individuals including those who:
Have experienced or are experiencing extreme emotional distress and/or psychiatric diagnoses
- Are survivors of trauma
- Are struggling with addictions and/or substance abuse
- Have experienced discrimination or oppression as a result of psychiatric diagnosis and/or a variety of other reasons
- Have a desire to find healing and growth for any part of their lives or being
- Are allies or who have genuine interest in learning and/or adding to the community
We approach our mission by:
- Offering trauma sensitive peer-to-peer supports
- Fostering mutuality and connection building
- Offering opportunities for learning and sharing of ideas
- Advocating for change at individual and community levels
- Developing regional and national networks
What we offer:
The Western Mass RLC offers a number of different supports to individuals, providers and the general community. These include:
- Peer-to-peer support by phone and in person
- Four resource centers (Holyoke, Springfield, Pittsfield, Greenfield) that provide access to computers, a lending library, resource information and a place for community to grow
- Wellness supports like yoga, acupuncture and reiki and (at our Springfield Center) free access to gym equipment
- Access to local arts, including art shows, workshops and writing groups
- Social opportunities like movie nights, pot lucks, beach trips and beyond
- Consultation and training on topics such as hearing voices, suicide, hiring peer workers, recovery principles and language
- Learning opportunities on many relevant topics including wellness planning, advocacy, SSI/SSDI benefits and more
- Networking opportunities for people working in peer roles and individuals interested in a variety of issues
- Coordination of events open to the communty including film screenings and presentations with nationally and internationally recognized speakers
- Support groups like Hearing Voices, Alternatives to Suicide and general support groups in the community and in local hospitals
- Leadership and career exploration opportunities particularly geared towrd young people in their late teens and 20’s
- A Peer Support Line
- A peer-run respite house
- A wide variety of volunteer opportunities and ways to get involved
The vision of the RLC was built upon the work of years upon years of advocacy by individuals both locally and nationally who have experienced psychiatric diagnoses, extreme states, trauma, oppression and a variety of other challenges. Together, they argued that peer supports should be valued monetarily and funded throughout the state. In 2005, the Transformation Center supported people in the local area to form the Guiding Council of Western Mass (GCOW). GCOW was made up entirely of individuals who had ‘been there,’ who worked and/or lived in Western Mass and who were interestered in shaping the vision of the RLC’s (then just a possible project the state was considering funding). GCOW members worked together for over a year to develop a mission statement, core values and a structure for the RLC in their region. When the Department of Mental Health released the RLC call for grant proposals in December of 2006, GCOW took leadership in developing a grant proposal and voted to join with the Western Mass Training Consortium as their partner agency.
GCOW and The Consortium were awarded the RLC grant in May of 2007. They opened the doors of their first Resource Center in Holyoke in July of that same year, followed by Pittsfield (October, 2007), Greenfield (January, 2008), and Springfield (May, 2009). Development of physical spaces has continued with a move by the Pittsfield Center from donated space in a church to independent space in September of 2009, the addition of a Community Wellness Center in Springfield in November 2010, the move of the Greenfield Center from shared space with the Recover Project to independent space in 2011, and the development and opening of the peer-run respite, Afiya, in 2012. However, focus on community supports and development has also continued to grow outside of the spaces, with groups, workshops and events regularly held in a variety of settings and individuals from the RLC community being supported to build connections throughout the region.
The Western Mass RLC is now one of six Reecovery Learning Communities funded throughout the state of Massachusetts. Visit the Transformation Center’s website to learn more about other RLCs.
The RLC is largely funded through grants from the Department of Mental Health. However, the RLC continues to seek additional funding opportunities and has also received funds through arts councils, community development block grants, individual donations and local foundations. All funders and donors play a crucial role in supporting the RLC to reach as many people as possible, to offer stipends to individuals in recovery who take on valued roles within the RLC, and to offer a wide variety of free offerings to individuals who would otherwise not have acccess to wellness activities like acupuncture, reiki, yoga, computer classes and more.
Visit our donations page to make a contribution!
Our Umbrella Organization:
The RLC has found its home with the Western Mass Training Consortium. The Consortium creates conditions in which people with lived experience pursue their dreams and strengthen our communities through full participation. They have over 20 years of experience in supporting community development, peer work and peer participatory processes.
Other peer-to-peer communities supported by The Consortium include:
Visit The Consortium’s website to learn more about their offerings!